Below are the latest updates on our expansion activities. For further information, you are welcome to contact us directly through email
For a brief history: after extensive process of gathering opinion from the membership, the Board of Directors consented to a three-part expansion plan which included:
- opening a Garden Center
- remodeling the Westside store
- exploring an Eastside expansion – possibilities include building a warehouse on the adjacent property, remodeling the store, and expanding our retail space into the current warehouse
The Garden Center and Westside remodel were completed in 2014. Since then, we have turned our attention to the Eastside, and have found answers to our many questions, which are detailed below, most of which have been printed in our publications, the Olympia Food Co-op Newsletter and the Table.
Board Report: Expansion Committee
By Desdra Dawning, Board Member
A subject that has been of interest to many, if not most, Olympia Food Co-op members for many years! Now that it has been determined that the plan to build a brand new building on the existing Eastside site is too costly and has been scrapped, ideas have turned to remodel for the existing Eastside facility. A remodeling bid has been reviewed and a reworked Eastside Remodel Proposal has been created, based on that bid. The Expansion Committee is continuing to look at overall design, and have created a subcommittee to look for a possible new location.
Board Report: Expansion Committee
By Desdra Dawning, Board Member
A very active committee. Recent Feasibility Study concluded that the plan for development of the Eastside store was not financially feasible. Working now on a new plan. Created a subcommittee to investigate new opportunities. May have opening for Member-at-Large position.
Board Report: Expansion
By Desdra Dawning, Board Member
For many years, Co-op expansion has been a hot topic, and because of the many variables involved it has traveled and evolved through many different proposals and plan ideas. The most recent efforts involved a feasibility study and proforma on the Eastside expansion project. The plan to build a new building next to the current Eastside store and demolish the old one was determined to be unacceptable. The cost of the project and the current inability of the Co-op to pay for it, the loss of parking spaces, the inability to further expand on the site, and other considerations were taken into account, and the Board of Directors agreed with the Expansion Committee to move in another direction. However, the floor plans developed are still available for a possible third store.
Eastside Store Expansion
By Maxim Étile, Staff Member
The Feasibility Study
In December 2014, the Board and Staff decided to conduct a feasibility study on an expansion plan for the Eastside store. In February 2015, as part of this study, we contracted a consultant to conduct a market study that included a market survey in which our members were asked their addresses and the amount they spent in the store on the day that they completed the survey. We would like to thank you all who participated in this survey. It has helped us to better understand our customer base and evaluate our potential for growth.
We then contracted another consultant, the Development Co-op (DC), to do the feasibility study. The DC is a co-op that specializes in helping food co-ops across the nation remodel and/or expand. Our original expansion plan was to remodel and expand the existing store.
However, after doing a site visit in July, the Development Committee determined that our current building had too much going against it (for example: an inverted roof, posts in the middle of the store, awkward building shape, its age, etc.). They advised us to do the feasibility study on building a new store on our current property and possibly demolishing the existing building for parking.
What to look for coming up soon
The feasibility study is helping us determine if it makes sense (in particular, financially) to build a new store on our current property. The staff collective and the Board of Directors will thoroughly review it and make a decision whether to pursue this option or not. If we decide to continue working on it, we will work on design details such as building architecture, ways to expand parking, green building options, and more. If Staff and Board decide not to pursue this option, we will be looking at alternatives like relocating the Eastside store or opening a third store. In any case, we are committed to making some kind of expansion happen. We will keep you, the membership, informed throughout the process through the Co-op News, our website, Facebook, Twitter and in the stores.
We also want you to stay involved by sending us your feedback and suggestions at any time directly through email. We are starting to explore various sources of funding for the project. One way for you to be involved could be financially supporting the Co-op by way of donations or loans. We are also considering having a round up option at the register. Please stay tuned as we fine tune our expansion vision and process.
December 2014 / January 2015
Olympia Food Co-op Annual Membership Meeting
By Desdra Dawning, Co-op Member
The meeting began with a report from the Expansion Committee. This committee has been busy for several years on work to make both Eastside and Westside stores become more efficient, customer-and-staff-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. Niki Bilodeau and Isabella Rogol, both Board members, brought us up-to-date on all the work that has been done at the Westside store to bring us a new Garden Center (now closed for the season) and to expand shopping space in the store with new shelves and a new floor. Then we were treated to a slide-show-put-to-music that chronicled the activities of the many Staff and Working Members who brought us the Garden Center with its new fence and remodeled back building. The show then moved on to highlight the many hours of work in the remodeling of the store itself. This was followed by a report on the next phase of work for the Expansion Committee – the remodeling and expansion of the Eastside store. Based on available finances, plans have been made to build a new warehouse on the empty lot next to the Eastside store, which will allow for the store to move its retail space into what is currently the warehouse, and also to give us more available parking. An architect is being sought, and a feasibility study is being conducted between Staff and the Board to determine what can viably be expected based on current finances.
October / November 2014
By Erin Genia, Board Member
We have many reasons to celebrate. The past four years have been an exciting time for expansion – we’ve acquired two properties both adjacent to our existing east and westside stores. One of these, The Little House property, has been transformed into a gorgeous new Garden Center, providing members with everything they need to grow delicious organic food. The completion of the Westside reset has added some convenient new features, upgrading the store’s usability, and enhancing the shopping experience. It’s equally exciting to look ahead at the future of expansion, as we consider the possibility of a multi-use warehouse-type structure and additional parking on the Eastside lot, making an Eastside store renovation a strong possibility.
June / July 2014
Garden Center Now OPEN!
By Desdra Dawning, Co-op Member
Something new is blossoming for the Co-op! If you are a Westside shopper, you may already have seen its unfolding, as you watched the progress going on behind the Little House next to the parking lot. The new Garden Center is the first phase of the Westside Co-op Expansion Project, leading in the fall to the next phase, and an exciting new look for the Westside market, both inside and out. On May 17, a soft opening unveiled our new Garden Center, allowing members the opportunity to explore and experience the beautiful new space.
The Grand Opening of the Garden Center on June 7th will be an all-day celebration. Starting at 1pm, and going until 7pm, it will be filled with live music and yummy food catered by Nineveh and the Olympia Food Co-op Deli. A series of raffles will be held throughout the day, starting at 10am (prizes from companies and vendors who supply the Garden Center with its products). There will be samples like seed packets available, and to those who spend $5 or more will come a 6-pack of organic flower starts from Rising River Farms.
April / May 2014
Westside Garden Center: Vision and Update
By Desdra Dawning, Co-op Member
Kim [a Westside Garden Manager] let me know that this is the first time the Co-op has launched something so “thematic,” meaning that it is focusing and specializing primarily on all the aspects of gardening and urban farming, including, as Kim put it, “preserving the bounty for the off-season.” That’s where the back building comes in. A certain “mercantile crossover” will be part of the long-range plan, as the new little store across the alley from the Co-op evolves into its own character, offering not only strictly gardening products, but also food preservation supplies and food processing tools, as well as other household items.
February / March 2014
What’s New at the Co-op this year?
By Maureen Tobin, Staff Member
The Staff Collective put a lot of plans on hold in 2013 as we worked to resolve an unbalanced budget and build our cash reserves. Therefore, as 2014 came looming closer and revenues continued to look rosier than at the start of the year, we dusted off our ideas of the past and started planning to do great projects again. So now, it’s a new year and a new budget and all things are possible, right?
Yes, it’s still at the top of the list, believe it or not: this organization is hard at work to improve our existing stores and eventually increase shopping space and offerings to the membership that have been long desired and requested.
For this next year, we have many plans for our beloved Westside store, such as replacing aging equipment and making floor plan changes that will help with crowding issues and even give us more space to offer new products and services, such as an amazing Garden Center!
As the improvements and new offerings at the Westside go on throughout the spring and summer, the Expansion staff will also be hard at work doing groundwork for our Eastside plans – to utilize the extra land there to build warehouse, and office and parking space and increase the retail space about 2,000 square feet. Our hopes are to get enough of the planning work done for the Eastside during this next year to break ground in early 2015.
Meanwhile, you’ll see lots of other in-store improvements as we work to replace old and outdated fixtures and equipment in preparation for new and remodeled space.
April / May 2013
By Jayne Rossman, Expansion Team Staff Member
The Expansion Plan in a Nutshell…
The Co-op’s expansion plan has three parts: the Garden Center, the Westside Remodel, and the Eastside Big Plan. We plan to finish all three within the next two to three years. Here are the details:
Garden Center: Summer 2013 or Spring 2014
Our current plan is to transform part of the structure next door to the Westside Co-op (referred to as the “Little House”) into Olympia’s premier garden and urban farming center – not only the place you go to buy your seeds, starts, and canning products, but the place you turn to for information on urban farming and sustainable living. Right now, we’re writing the business plan, making sure all of the numbers add up, and all of our plans are in place. Once the details are reviewed by the Staff and consented to by the Board, we’ll begin the magic of making it happen. We’re aiming for a summer 2013 opening (although there’s a chance we may have to postpone it to early 2014). Look for an invite to our opening day events!
Westside Remodel: Late Summer 2013
When the Board decided to forego the overly-expensive downtown location, they determined that we should put some time and money into improving the locations that we currently have. That’s why we’re working on a Westside Remodel that will include more retail space (by decreasing the size of our front office), a smaller, but more visible children’s area (similar to the Eastside), more light, new paint, and other updates (hot coffee and tea, anyone?). This work will be completed in late summer, a traditionally slow time at the Westside. Again, we’ll send you an invitation to our grand re-opening to show off our work – and your new space!
The Eastside Big Plan: 2015
The Eastside Big Plan is the largest and most ambitious of our expansion projects. This project includes building a new warehouse with office and classroom space on the lot adjacent to the current Eastside, and then creating more than 1000 square feet of new retail space within the old warehouse, while remodeling the entire store. Imagine entering a more spacious Eastside store with abundant windows and natural light, new flooring, and 1000+ square feet of expanded product lines and offerings! We’ll begin to plan the specifics of the Eastside warehouse and remodel plan later this year… Currently, we expect this project to begin mid-2014 (with the new warehouse) and to be completed in 2015 (with the remodel of the Eastside retail space.)
October / November 2012
By Jayne Kaszynski, Staff Member
After nine months of searching, researching, gathering feedback and visions, looking through the Co-op Conversation notes and old surveys, and brainstorming, the Board consented the Expansion Teams final recommendation: to expand at our current locations, utilizing the space and land that we bought over the last two years. The Westside will also get a re-vamp with the new Garden Center opening in spring of 2013, and an interior remodel and re-paint that will make it brighter, friendlier, and more shoppable.
Expanding at our current locations means that the Co-op will improve our current stores, increase overall retail space, and strengthen our local food systems, all hopefully without significant increases to prices. New construction will be ergonomic and as environmentally friendly as possible, and by keeping our current buildings, we’ll be choosing the “greenest” route – using what we already have.
For those of you who are still hoping for a downtown location – you are not alone! Making the decision to forego opening a downtown location at this time was difficult. However, although the added visibility of a downtown location and the idea of helping revitalize downtown were appealing, the risks and financial costs of such a project were much higher. Our expansion visioning has encouraged us to think of expansion as an ongoing evolution, and we see the Eastside and Westside expansions not as an end, but as a first step. A mom-and-pop downtown store is a future possibility, as are expanding into Tumwater or Lacey, opening neighborhood satellite stores, beginning a traveling market that goes to outlying communities like Aberdeen or Potlatch, and many other exciting ideas. Each of these possibilities need more time to be fully researched and considered, and we plan to do so as soon as we finish “Part 1” of Co-op expansion.
By Jayne Kaszynski, Staff Member
In the past months, we collected monumental pile (digitally speaking) of information from current and past expansion work, surveys, and reports. We wanted to find out what people said they wanted and what consultants said we ought to want. We found some surprising nuggets of data.
For each of the suggestions that have been made, we asked ourselves whether it was a feasible plan that would meet our mission. In many cases, we won’t know until we complete much more in-depth market research.
Some of the difficulty in sifting through our buckets of suggestions has been in determining what our priorities are. The Expansion Team believes we can do everything – just not all at once. So what do we do first, and what do we plan on doing five years from now?
To answer this question, we broke down the reasons for expanding into two basic categories: first, we need to fix the problems that we are currently experiencing; and second, we want to improve our ability to meet our mission overall. To make sure we were all on the same page, we created a problem statement, which succinctly captures the problems we need to solve. Here it is:
The limitations of our current retail space constrain the Co-op’s current and future ability to meet the demand for local, organic foods and products.
This is a result of both a growing population within Thurston County, and a growing market share of natural foods (i.e. more people choosing to buy organic, local, etc.). Furthermore, without improving the appearance and shopping experience within the stores, the Co-op faces difficulty in attracting and retaining new customers.
Both of these problems will make it difficult for us to achieve our mission statement, particularly in that: a) we will struggle to “make good food accessible to more people”; b) we may struggle to “see to the long-term health of the business”; and c) we may have reduced funds available to fund outreach and education activities including education about food, consensus, and the cooperative model.
At minimum, our expansion plans must address these problems.
With this in mind, our current work is in exploring which expansion options will provide the best, most financially viable solution to these problems. Then, we can start looking at the more exciting suggestions from Staff visioning and the Co-op Conversation (for instance, seeding new co-ops? Creating an educational institute? Opening a traveling grocery truck for outlying areas?) We’ll be gathering feedback from Staff and Board on our proposal in between now and when this article is published.
Excerpts from Ballot, Growth and Expansion Reports
Imagined during the Board of Directors retreat of 2005, the Growth Response Oversight Committee (GROC) met over the coarse of the next year to implement the Growth Response Process (GRP), which was the Board’s preliminary response to the persistent double digit sales growth, at both stores, for nearly every fiscal quarter over the past several years.
The GROC worked to distill and delineate options open to us as a result of this growth. This process included surveying the general membership, staff, neighborhood associations, and vendors. It included conducting member forums and the hiring of an outside consultant to perform a market survey. This work culminated in an Advisory Ballot measure to be presented in the 2006 election. After the raw votes were in, they were tabulated according to different means to ensure a result that was closest to consensus.
Presenting this ballot result to the Board, along with the GROC final report, brought the GPR full circle. The Advisory Ballot results affirmed the desire to build community with progressive values, and to work to strengthen downtown. It also showed how many members love our current stores (especially strong attachment to the Westside store). At the end of the discussion and review of information, the Board reached a consensus:
“It is the goal of the Olympia Food Co-op to open a new store in downtown Olympia. The guidelines for size are 5,000 to 10,000 square food of retail space (Westside current is 2,400 and Eastside current is 5,000). In addition, the Co-op will attempt co-locate with businesses and non-profits that support the goals of the Co-op Mission Statement.”
The Board will work with Staff in the coming months to create an expansion process. We phrase this decision as a goal because many things can happen before or during an expansion When the Co-op last expanded, we started with a goal of opening a 2nd neighborhood store but we soon found that there were no options for doing this. During the three year expansion process, we continually updated and expanded our parameters based on what we found to be possible. In addition, expansion must be constantly evaluated for financial feasibility.
For further information, you are welcome to contact us directly through email