In the past, one of the questions our community most frequently asked was why we weren’t pursuing the old Mr. Z’s site at 401 S. Main St. in Lombard. Now that the new Helen Plum Library is being built on that site, we don't expect to get that question as much.
However, since announcing that we are searching for an alternative site, we have received a lot of input about locations around our community - most notably the recently vacated 7/11 storefront at 401 W. Crescent in Lombard. We'd like to take this opportunity to prime our owners and wider community on the site selection process with a few of our more important site considerations.
First, an Overview of our Site Needs
Based on a number of market studies and experiences of other successful co-ops, we believe long-term success is possible with a grocery store that is:
- located on or near major thoroughfares
- 6500 - 10,000 total square feet
- move-in ready with minimal renovation costs
- developed within the calculated costs per our financial pro forma
- surrounded by plenty of parking
The Two Main Reasons We Can’t Open at an Empty 7/11
Size: The 7/11 storefront is too small.
Size is the most important criteria for our store’s success. A quick breakdown:
Too Small - When food co-ops open in spaces that are too small, they tend to be looked at as niche, gourmet, vitamin, or health food stores which puts them at a financial disadvantage immediately. Also, stores that are too small tend to run out of cash on hand to keep up with demand for inventory.
Parking - Usually stores that are too small also don’t provide enough parking. A suburban grocery store requires a significant amount of parking space (at least 6 spots per 1000 square feet)
- Too Big - Too big of a store is even more of a red flag. If you’re paying for a 28,000 sq. ft store when your market study tells you to open in a 6500 - 10,000, sq. foot store, 1) you will run out of money rapidly and 2) no bank would give you a loan anyway.
Major Thoroughfare: Crescent and St. Charles is not a high-traffic area
The current grocery store industry is hyper-competitive and offers slim profit margins. To be successful, Prairie Food Co-op needs to be on a street with a high volume of traffic. While we intend to market and promote our grocery store, the most effective way to get a shopper's attention is by being visible to them. We need to be seen by as many people as possible and ideally in an area with high commuter traffic and near other stores and businesses that shoppers will visit.
Trust Us - We Did Our Homework.
Every single decision we make is guided by the question, “Will this help insure success?” We have commissioned four separate market studies with multiple food co-op consulting firms that follow best practices from following the scores of other just-opening food co-ops across the country. We are now working with industry-leading architects, designers, construction experts, and developers who have experience in this industry and whose advice is worth its weight in gold.
We understand why people ask about or think we should open up at vacant locations such as a 7/11 or Mr. Z’s, and as Owners, you are entitled to make such suggestions! The Board welcomes the opportunity to continue to be transparent with our Owners on the site search process.
Finding the right site that supports our mission and forecasts to be successful in our market takes time - but it’s worth it to ensure the long term success of our grocery store.
How Can YOU Help?
We have a talented team of PFC Owners dedicated to evaluating the feasibility of potential sites and we will continue to be thorough when considering if a site is a high producing location for PFC to consider. If you’d like to join our site team or maybe help out in other ways, we have many areas we could use your help in:
- Website Maintenance
- Social Media/Messaging
- Event Planning
- And more!
If you’d like to lend a hand in any of the areas above, or have another talent you’d like to lend, fill out our volunteer form at https://www.prairiefood.coop/volunteer
Also, if you’d like to help PFC specifically with our upcoming Fall Community Investment Program email us at [email protected]
And, of course, if you're not a PFC Owner yet, become a PFC Owner at www.prairiefood.coop/ownership.