The PFC board hired Firebrand Coop consultants to survey our marketplace and provide a store concept that meets our mission and values. We are excited to share the vision and main features of our future grocery store:
- Boldly Fresh and Local. Dan Arnett, Chicago Market Coop General Manager, says "in over 20 years of managing coops across the country, I have never seen a region so desperate for local products". Our produce section will feature the best and freshest from our local farms. Yes, we will carry bananas and citrus fruits but our store will be the ONLY grocery store in DuPage County that features a wide selection of locally grown products. Right now, only 5% of the products we buy are grown locally and as a result, the Illinois economy loses billions in potential revenue. We hope to change that!
- Quality Meat and Deli. Designed to be well-curated and focused on local/sustainable options, while highlighting the best aspects of Chicago’s history of high-quality, service-centered meat shops and grocery departments. It will welcome customers into an experience that is both Prairie values-driven, personalized, yet easy to shop. Illinois and the upper-Midwest have a surplus of dairy farms and ranchers looking for stores like Prairie Food Co-op to showcase their products.
- Flexible and Adaptive Community Space. Our community seating area is open to the store and visible to all, yet designed to still feel like a separate room-like space. With the addition of a portable demo cart that can be used both throughout the store for local foods samplings as well as a cooking lesson unit, the seating space will serve as a day-to-day gathering space, a meeting space, a live performance space, and a classroom/demo space.
- Outdoor Patio. The curb appeal of the very spacious and highly visible outdoor patio space is a huge asset for Prairie Food Co-op that few food co-ops of its size can boast. This patio space will set PFC apart as a grocery store that is also a gathering and meeting space for friends or groups. It will serve as an inviting dining space to enjoy the prepared food options al fresco, or savor your morning coffee before heading to the train station.
Sustainability and environmental stewardship are part of our mission. Here are the ways in which our store will live up to those values:
- Vestibule: The air lock entry is a design feature used to help keep the conditioned air in the sales area as consistent as possible. The customer path will prevent both the exterior doors and the sales area doors from being opened at the same time keeping the sales area at a consistent temperature.
- Case feature selection: We are recommending LED lighting and high efficiency fans in all refrigerated cases. In addition, most refrigerated cases have glass doors to contain the refrigerated air inside the case, keeping product fresher longer and conserving the energy it takes to maintain temperature.
- Store lighting: Throughout the store we are advocating using LED lighting to ensure a colorful and bright presentation while keeping energy consumption and costs as low as possible. In areas other than the sales floor, motion sensors are recommended so no energy is wasted in uninhabited coolers, prep rooms, work areas, or restrooms.
- Heat Capture. The compressor room will feature a hot water storage tank using the heat captured from the condensers and compressors working to maintain the cool air in the refrigerated cases. This heat generated from the mechanical equipment in the compressor room is not wasted, but able to be stored and used on demand throughout the store as needed.
- Systems controls and refrigerant leak detection: We’ve included automated systems in the equipment budgeting intended to monitor the refrigeration systems. These monitors act as an A.I watchdog to alert staff of anomalies that indicate less than perfect conditions needing repair or maintenance. Without these controls, there is no way to detect problems until a case loses temperature or worse, a refrigeration unit goes down. Both situations are very costly, not only in product loss but also in longer term energy loss due to the mechanical equipment working less efficiently.
- Composting Program. PFC will offer a composting program to encourage responsible reuse of compostable materials, along with the use of compostable packaging whenever possible within our budget.
- Environmental Programs. Our classroom space will be used to provide educational programming focused on environmental stewardship and sustainability - at home and in our world.
What is a Cooperative Business Anyway?
A Cooperative is a business owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Law dictates that profits generated by a Cooperative be distributed among Owners or re-invested in the business to expand products and services. There are several different types of co-ops: consumer co-ops such as Prairie Food Co-op, producer co-ops such as Organic Valley, worker co-ops such as Equal Exchange, and housing co-ops. Credit unions (maybe you belong to one!) are financial co-ops.
In food co-ops such as ours, you become an owner by buying two shares of the business — joining with your neighbors to provide the money that allows the co-op to exist. Your investment demonstrates that you support the mission of Prairie Food Co-op - to open a full service grocery store dedicated to strengthening our local economy and supporting local, sustainable food production. Your investment helps create a more responsible and just food system.
Food co-ops are not a new idea or niche market. There are more than 250 food co-ops in the US that generate over $1.4 billion in annual revenue and owned by over 1.3 million consumer Owners. Collectively, food co-ops are the third largest buyer of natural foods.
The Co-op Difference
- Supporting Local Food Systems
- Employment and Job Quality
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Stewardship
- Promoting Healthy & Sustainable Foods.
Food co-ops are different from a typical chain grocer in many ways. In fact, the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives to highlight the important role that cooperatives play in creating employment and strengthening communities across the globe.