A cooperative business is a different type of business - one that is created by the community to meet the needs of the community. Cooperative businesses do not exist to bring wealth to investors but rather to enrich the community by providing a service. The Illinois Cooperative Act dictates that profits of any cooperative business must be either reinvested in the business or given back to Owners in the form of patronage dividends (patronage simply means that your dividend is based on the amount spent on purchases. The more money you spend at the co-op, the higher the dividend). Co-ops are not a new idea or small niche market. There are over 250 food co-ops across the country, many in operation since the 1970s (and a few since the 40s!). Food co-ops are collectively the third largest buyer of natural foods in the nation. New food co-ops are opening across the country.
Prairie Food Co-op was organized to provide year-round access to locally produced, sustainable products in a full service grocery store. Our co-op will have an emphasis on transparent product labeling so that you know how your food was produced. Our co-op will support local farmers and food producers by giving them a stable market to sell their products. Our co-op will offer food-focused educational classes such as "Kids Can Cook", "Cooking on a Budget", and other classes that the community is interested in. Our co-op will provide 35-40 jobs on opening day with benefits for all positions. Our co-op will stimulate the creation of new small businesses by providing a marketplace to sell locally-made products. Our co-op will keep more money in our community for all these reasons.
As a cooperative business, we rely on the community to support us in the form of Ownership purchases. Ownership is a one-time payment of $200 that gives you two shares of common stock in Prairie Food Co-op. You can also enter our Installment Plan and pay as little as $25/month towards the Ownership fee. As an Owner, you can vote for the Board of Directors, run for the Board, give input on the products and services you'd like to see in our store, and receive monthly discounts to local businesses through our PROPS program. Owners will also receive Owner-exclusive discounts once the store opens.
The Prairie Food Co-op Board of Directors continues to work hard to ensure we open a thriving store that will serve our community far into the future. The Board commissioned a market study in 2015 that forecasts millions in gross sales for the first 5-years and has created financial statements outlining feasibility and profitability for the first 10 years of operation The resulting data confirms that Prairie Food Co-op can be successful. When we reach 800 Owners, we can sign a lease on our flagship grocery store. The store will be located in Lombard (North of Roosevelt and South of North) with a trade area that includes Elmhurst, Villa Park, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Downers Grove, and Oakbrook Terrace.
Our progress towards opening day is dependent on community support. More specifically, we rely on Owner growth to move forward. Each new Owner brings us one step closer to opening our doors. Over 575 community leaders and residents have already become Owners. If you are not yet an Owner, we hope that you will show your support by joining today!
A committed group of volunteers have been working to build Prairie Food Co-op since mid-2012. It takes, on average, 5-6 years to open a food co-op and we are on track to open within that timeframe. Along the way, we have received many accolades, including a competitive $10K grant based on the strength of our organization and leadership. We recently visited our mentor co-op, Common Ground Food Co-op (CGFC) in Urbana, and were reminded of why we are doing this. Here we will share why we are working hard to open Prairie Food Co-op - a grocery store that is so much more!Read more
Have you ever wondered how we plan to fund the opening of our full service grocery store? Board Treasurer, Tom Lamberty, has all the financial details for you here!
Prairie Food Co-op follows a well-established process to open our store. The foundation of everything is growing the number of Owners. At 800 Owners, we have the proven support to sign a lease, announce the site of our store, and begin the search for the store’s General Manager. At 1,000 Owners, we will launch our owner loan campaign that will give Owners a unique opportunity to invest in their community. On opening day, we project to have 1,500 Owners.
After completing a market study, business plan, and financial pro-forma it is clear that opening a 10,000 square foot grocery store is a major financial undertaking, but one that we can achieve. This newsletter explains each upcoming expense category and all expected sources of revenue needed to open our store. The delicate fiscal balance between Sources and Uses motives the Board to move cautiously, but steadily, forward.
Expenses (Uses of Funds)
Opening a new grocery store requires numerous upfront expenses. We have broken down our anticipated costs into four main categories and one catch-all for the rest.
Prairie Food Co-op will be a full-service grocery store in Lombard focusing on local, sustainable, and organic food and products including produce, meat, dairy, frozen foods, household goods, pet supplies, health and beauty products, beer, wine and a large variety of bulk items.
Prairie Food Co-op will support and strengthen the local food system and have a huge benefit to the local economy.
If this sounds great, then become a Prairie Food Co-op Owner today! As a cooperative, we rely on your support (through Ownership) to show that you want this type of business in town.
THE MARCH TO 800 OWNERS (AND WHY WE NEED YOU)
You may have been following our progress for years or months but either way, we have been working hard for nearly three years to open Prairie Food Co-op. In that time, we've been awarded several scholarships and grants, including a competitive $10,000 grant from the Food Co-op Initiative based on the strength of our organization and leadership. We also received a scholarship to consult with Cooperative Development Services (CDS) to help guide us and keep us focused as we navigate through the complex process of opening a member-owned, full-service grocery store.
All that is to say we have built a strong, knowledgeable foundation for success. We are excited to take the next big step - sign a lease and find a home for the future store! We are *so* close but need YOUR help to get there. We need....
- 800 Owners to sign a lease.
- 800 Owners to show their commitment and desire to build this amazing resource for our community.
- 800 is not the final goal but a critical goal that allows us to move forward.
- Will YOU join today and be one of the very special 800 Owners that make it possible to find our home?
If you've been waiting to join until we announce our location, remember that we cannot secure a site until we reach 800 Owners. If everyone waited to join until we have a site, then Prairie Food Co-op will never open. The first 800 Owners make Prairie Food Co-op possible. People who choose to invest in a business that will have a significant impact on Lombard. Who choose to put their money into a business rooted in community and dedicated to serving the needs and wants of that community. It's up to YOU to bring Prairie Food Co-op to Lombard!
In January 2015, the Prairie Food Co-op Board hired Debbie Suassuna of G2G Research to conduct a comprehensive Market Study to evaluate several potential store locations in Lombard, create a sales forecast for each site, and make general recommendations based on our communities’ demographics. After many months of research and meeting with community developers and city officials, the Board selected 3 sites for evaluation in 3 distinct areas of Lombard. Ms. Suassuna spent two days in Lombard in February to research the trade area. In her report, Ms. Suassuna noted that the natural food segment of the retail food industry has been increasing at a rate considerably faster than the conventional segment of the food industry. While no exact statistics are available, it has generally been reported in various trade journals that the size of the natural and local food market has been growing at a rate of between 5% and 10% per year.
Key Findings Noted in the Market Study:
In light of these [quickly growing natural foods industry] developments, the Lombard area seems to represent a market with sufficient demand to warrant serious consideration for a natural foods co-op store.
The competitive environment to be faced by the proposed co-op is moderate
Based on the population size, good demographic composition, and competitive environment of the Lombard market area, combined with the experiences of other natural foods co-ops in similar market situations, it appears that there is sufficient sales potential to support a natural foods co-op.
Given the available sales potential within the market, it is recommended that the co-op planning group seek a facility that would be large enough to accommodate an acceptable variety of food store departments, including meat, bakery, produce, dry grocery, frozen food and dairy, as well as a few specialty departments that might include a deli with some prepared foods, a specialty drink bar, and/or a small café/seating area.
While we would love to share more specific findings from our Market Study, industry best practice dictates that proposed sites, trade area, sales forecasts and much of the other specific information included in the report is extremely sensitive. However, we CAN answer the most frequently asked question about our future store location: What about Mr. Zs? Our response: The Mr. Zs building is at least three times too big. That doesn't mean that a developer cannot purchase the building and sub-divide the space, but at this time, that appears highly unlikely. There are a variety of other spaces in Lombard that provide better sales potential and we are excited to start exploring the options with our real estate agent!
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, known collectively as the "7 Cooperative Principles". We'd like to focus on Principal 6 for a moment - Cooperation among Cooperatives - because this principle is so integral in making Prairie Food Co-op a success.Read more
If you've been following Prairie Food Co-op for awhile, you'll know that we have set a goal of 250 Owners to move forward with a Market Analysis that will determine the size and location of the future store. Why 250 Owners? Research done by the Food Co-op Initiative, a non-profit organization supporting food co-ops across the country, demonstrates that 250 Owners in the early development stage is a very strong sign of community support. In one short year, we have nearly 250 Owners (as of this writing, we have 230 Owners), which is an amazing accomplishment. We will always need more Owners (nearly 1000 Owners by store opening), but 250 is the benchmark for success!Read more