1. WHERE WILL THE STORE BE LOCATED?
We are focusing primarily on Lombard for several reasons:
- Lombard is not served by a one-stop natural foods grocery store
- A large portion of North Lombard is designated a Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) area under the federal government’s Reinvestment Fund (TRF) program, meaning there is no convenient grocery store for residents in this area.
- Lombard has great opportunities for investment and creation of a retail grocery store
- Over 65% of our Owners are from Lombard
2. WHEN WILL YOU OPEN?
The short answer is, when you become an owner! Because the capital to open a cooperatively-owned grocery comes from individuals across the community instead of a single private investor or corporation, we rely on owners (YOU!) to provide the necessary funds to open our store – it is our owner equity that will leverage further financing to open the doors. The best way to accelerate the opening process is to become an owner today!
3. WHERE WILL THE MONEY TO OPEN THE STORE COME FROM?
Just like any business, we will need to get business loans in order to open. By selling ownership shares, we are gathering the equity we will need to leverage financing from lenders. Once we have enough owners, we will begin an owner-loan campaign to receive interest-bearing loans from Prairie Food Co-op owners. Outside of Prairie Food Co-op owners, potential lenders will include traditional banks as well as non-traditional lenders that exist specifically to help start-up co-op businesses.
4. WHY BECOME AN OWNER?
Because without owners, the co-op cannot exist! Co-ops are owned and democratically controlled by their owners; and owners provide the basic capital to finance the co-op. Owners have a voice in the future store by voting for the Board of Directors, and can also run for the Board themselves. Putting off joining the co-op means that it takes longer for the store to open. By becoming an owner today, you enable us to open sooner. It starts with you!
5. WHAT IS THE PRAIRIE FOOD CO-OP?
The Prairie Food Co-op will be a retail grocery store that focuses on healthy, local, organic, and sustainable food. As a cooperative, it will be member-owned, but it will also be open for shopping to the public. Co-ops operate democratically, so owners are able to vote for the board and have regular opportunities to provide input and feedback.
6. TELL ME MORE ABOUT COOPERATIVE BUSINESSES!
Cooperatives are businesses that people purchase a share of, similar to a corporation. However, corporations are owned by people who want to make money off their share investment while co-ops are owned by people who want the products and services offered by a co-op. The whole business model of a co-op is to bring a service to community members, not to make profit for investors. Since decisions about operating the store are made by the owners, cooperatives are more responsive to community needs and desires. In addition, because of community ownership, cooperatives have proven to be one of the most resilient business models during economic downturns. All cooperatives follow the 7 Cooperative Principles.
7. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FOOD CO-OP AND A SUPERMARKET?
At first glance, they may look the same, but co-ops (or cooperatives) are businesses that are owned and operated by the people who shop there. Owner-members help determine the values under which the co-op operates, but the following are some common features:
- Clear and reliable labeling of products
- Healthy foods
- Support for local, organic, independent food producers (such as local farmers)
- Concern for the environment
- Community engagement – making it a better place to live
- Fair wages for employees
8. HOW WILL A FOOD CO-OP CONTRIBUTE TO OUR LOCAL ECONOMY?
Food co-ops have a direct effect on their local economies. According to a recent NCGA survey, food co-ops purchase from twice the number of local food producers as conventional grocers, and more than two-fifths ($0.41) of every dollar spent at a food co-op supports the local economy, compared to just $0.22 at a conventional grocer.
Consider this: Less than 5% of the food we buy is produced in Illinois. Because of that, Central Illinois alone loses $5 billion per year from its regional economy. Experts estimate we have the capacity to produce at least 40% of our food right here in our state. However, even if we would buy just 15% of our food from local producers, we could generate $639 million of new income annually. This would go a long way to keep our local farmers in business!
9. WILL THE FOOD BE AFFORDABLE?
Supermarket chains have a huge advantage because they must buy foods that have a long shelf life – food that is frequently purchased from corporate farms outside the United States and shipped thousands of miles. We plan to carry foods produced by local growers and small companies that take pride in their products, answer directly to the co-op and our community, and who try to make a decent living by being trustworthy and reliable.
Additionally, most grocery co-ops put a priority on paying a fair price to their suppliers and a living wage to their employees, while also making prices as affordable as possible. Our owners will have a say in how we balance fairness and affordability. Here are some ways other co-ops improve affordability for their customers:
- Special programs for low-income customers
- Accepting Link and WIC benefits
- Assisting low-income households with the purchase of equity (ownership) shares in the co-op
- Pricing discounts for people facing financial hardship
- Ownership-appreciation days where owners receive a discount on all store items
10. HOW CAN FOOD BE MADE MORE AFFORDABLE TO ALL?
The co-op will have a bulk section, where consumers typically save 35%. We may sell select staple items at permanently discounted prices or at wholesale cost (no mark-up). Offering classes to help people cook and eat healthfully on a budget is another opportunity to save money.
One important point – Cheap food is a myth. While the end consumer may view the food as cheap, someone is paying the true cost of the food- and its usually not the manufacturer or the retailer. Cheap food is subsidized by those who can least afford it: Farmers, farm workers, grocery store employees, other food service workers, and communities whose natural resources are despoiled through excessive use of chemicals. There are two sides to affordability- not just cost but also ability to pay. If we continue to pay people less than a living wage for their labor, food will never truly be affordable-just cheap.
11. WILL THE CO-OP ACCEPT FOOD STAMPS/LINK?
Yes, the food co-op plans to accept food stamps (LINK). It is an important goal to remain affordable and accessible to all. In fact, we hope to create programs that cater specifically to individuals and families on food stamps, such as cooking on a budget classes. For inspiration, we have looked at Common Ground Food Co-ops “Food For All” program, which makes healthy food more accessible to all.
12. WHAT IS THE SUCCESS RATE FOR FOOD CO-OPS?
According to recent analysis of food co-ops, of about 63 new retail co-ops that have opened since 2006, only 12 closed, or 19 percent. If you compare this to typical failure rates for new small businesses, it is a stellar record. Established co-ops continue to open additional stores, with an even higher rate of success.
13. HOW WILL PRAIRIE FOOD DIFFER FROM TRADER JOE’S & WHOLE FOODS?
While many people enjoy shopping at the various grocery stores in the area, Lombard itself is lacking in grocery shopping options. Most residents prefer a closer grocery store that carries all the products and services they desire. There are several Whole Food stores in DuPage, but none conveniently located near Lombard. Trader Joe’s, in Glen Ellyn, is closer but is not a “one stop shop” for many shoppers. Many people find themselves hopscotching to several different stores each week. This is not ideal and the goal of Prairie Food is to be that one-stop-shop in Lombard. What really sets the co-op apart, though, are these three (3) things: support of local food producers, clear and transparent labeling of food, and local ownership. The economic impact of local ownership and support of local food producers is tremendous. Each dollar spent at the co-op will have a much greater benefit for our local economy than spending that same money at other grocers. This report on the social and economic impacts of food cooperatives lays it out very well.