As we near the end of another year, we look back at a year full of major milestones.
This time last year we were still uncertain if we would receive our $847K grant sponsored by Sean Casten. Just days later, the U.S. Senate pushed it through and it was signed into law a few days after. This of course was a great relief to us, as that extra money is vital to us building our store due to continued inflation increasing construction costs.
As 2023 kicked in, PFC was in the process of finalizing our lease conditions at Eastgate Shopping Center, hopeful of beginning construction by summer or fall. We understood (and communicated) that this was a perfect-case scenario, dependent on both our landlord’s completion of needed renovations and upgrades to our store, as well as the State of IL, and federal government issuance of our grants. Collectively, this is a complicated process that takes much time and vigilance.
Nevertheless, we remained (and still remain) excited that we signed our lease and work was moving forward. Around this time we were also working towards a very significant milestone in a food co-op’s development- the securing of a food distributor. As we have shared countless times, we will sell as much locally-produced food as possible, but we will need a food distributor who specializes in natural and organic foods to provide us with many of the dry, canned, and other goods that we can’t source locally. Imagine how excited we were when we secured an account with INFRA- a food distributor that is also a co-op that specializes in organic, and sustainably-produced food! So while we are working with our local farmers and food makers, we have another means of sourcing local food with our distributor!
We think this enthusiasm carried over into our participation in the Lilac Day Parade where we had fun dressing up as our favorite foods, carrying punny grocery signs, pushing grocery carts, and giving away Prairie Barry tattoos (they went fast!). And the cherry (pun intended) on top? We won FIRST prize for our category!
Meanwhile, another major milestone was right around the corner. We had began searching for our General Manager, one of the most consequential decisions a food co-op can make. We retained the services of a food co-op consulting firm that specializes in finding viable candidates from all over the country to fill this role. We assumed we were going to attract a GM from another part of the country (which is common practice) so imagine our delight when the most qualified candidate already lives in our neighborhood- Wheaton to be exact- and has an immense amount of experience opening and running a natural foods store!
We welcomed Jason- our new GM- in August. Jason is from a small farming community in Illinois, was GM at multiple area Whole Foods locations, and even opened the Whole Foods in Elmhurst. We aren’t just excited that he has natural food grocery management experience, but that he has experience in OUR market.
Jason has kept busy by meeting with the Lombard village board of trustees, other area representatives, area business leaders, local farmers and goods producers, in addition to monitoring the progress of our store and keeping pressure on our landlord to complete the updates and upgrades needed for PFC to take possession of the store. One silver lining about our store not being ready is that we have not paid one penny in rent and will not for 8 months after our permits are approved. This is just one more way that the PFC board has protected the investment made into our store by our Owners.
All good things are worth waiting for! Have you seen Eastgate lately? It's a different mall with many improvements already made and many coming - Ace's Garden Center and a newly paved parking lot, to name a few.
We hope our regular emails and social media posts have transparently communicated the efforts taken this year to open our doors. Each challenge we overcame brought us steps closer to opening our store. We appreciate the patience our Owners and community at large have shown us thus far and urge you to stick with us over these final hurdles!
We have a lease, we have a our GM, we have funding from our Owners and other sources. With possession of our site on the horizon, we can provide a more definitive timeline to open. We cannot wait to shop with you next year!