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CO-OP NEWLSETTER
August, 2009

(written by Rick Beach, Co-op Member)

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3 Months and Still Growing
Arena Market and Café opened three months ago and continues to grow. More than 220 members have joined the co-op. Sales revenue continues to trend upward. Plans for expansion are underway. It's a moment for reflection and appreciation.

Who am I?
You may ask who am I? I'm a co-op member who joined because of the 35 committed people back in Dec 2008. Community-supported cooperatives are a non-profit business model that realizes my interests and values. As a retired technology executive who now works with non-profits in San Diego and Point Arena, this lets me contribute my passion and expertise. Along the way, I discovered how to manage my own retirement account to invest in communities. Instead of mutual funds, I could help the Arena Theater Association refinance their loans in 2006. Now I can support this community cooperative organic grocery store. Great opportunity.

Co-op Membership Update
The community support for Coastal Organics has surprised some of our friends in other co-ops, such as Ukiah Natural Foods and Ocean Beach People's Co-op (San Diego). We have more members in a shorter period of time raising more member equity than is typical. With 220 members and almost $100,000 in equity, that represents about one-third of the value of the business. Well done!

Co-op Financial update
Overall, the co-op continues to grow, but the challenge is to manage the cash flow. Members sustain the co-op through membership equity and shopping at the co-op. We track sales to members and those sales have been steady and growing slightly since opening. Thanks.

Inventory Update
With limited funds, the challenge of a new grocery business is to meet the needs of shoppers. Let us know if there is something that you want. Tell the cashier as you check out. We need to sell it to you! Look for a list of new items from your suggestions.

Local Economy
Almost all of the money spent in the market and café goes back into the local economy within 100 miles of Point Arena. Local construction talent used building materials purchased locally to renovate the Odd Fellows building. Local produce items have their own product codes in the point-of-sale system, so we can track sales from Oz Farm, Green Gorge Farm, Martin Sisters Flowers, Flowers by the Sea, and Chaos Farms. Local companies supply our grocery items and produce our dairy, meat, and coffee within 100 miles. Local people have jobs because of the co-op, with three people working full-time and five to ten working part-time, as well as several people working as volunteers. Our expenses break down to about one-third for labor, one-half for product suppliers and one-sixth for operating expenses.

Note on Competitive Pricing
Think about shopping by price alone. The co-op is a business with costs. Local suppliers need our support as a philosophy of sustaining our community investment. What you pay us provides the margin above supplier costs to pay the people who work here and keeps the co-op operating. With more sales volume, we qualify for larger quantity discounts and lower shipping rates. With more time in operation, we qualify for national co-op supplier discounts. With more local choices, we can reduce the expense of travel and shipping. With member discounts, we can honor repeat business from the people who own the co-op. So, we need your buying power to sustain the business to lower prices.

Growing the Business
When we grow the business, then we will be selling more without increasing labor or operating costs. This extra revenue with the same costs enables us to pay off loans to grow the business. Larger inventory (to fill the larger store space) means satisfying more customers with more products. Finishing the kitchen means adding prepared foods like soups, sandwiches, salads, stews and smoothies. Our liquor license means adding sales of beer and wine, especially organic selections. All these changes are expected within the next 60 days.

Seeking Loans for Developing the Business
Early during the formation of the co-op, we were encouraged to seek business development funds. Interesting chicken or egg situation: how to start a business with no assets to put up as collateral for a loan to start a business? We risk running out of money waiting for the loan applications to be approved.

The City of Point Arena has a fund with about $250,000 available for local businesses. The County of Mendocino has a fund but has not supported any business in the south coast for a very long time. Federal programs have funds for rural and small business but are for larger amounts and require more paperwork and more collateral.

Of course, getting money isn't easy. Still, the vision of a community-supported cooperative has become a reality in Point Arena. Beyond our membership, we have allies who are championing our cause. They really like our vision, marvel at your support and appreciate the results so far.

FYI, the City of Point Arena discusses the co-op loan on Tuesday, August 25. Your support at that council meeting might make a difference.

You Can Help
As a member, you own the co-op. Talk it up with friends. Explain the community vision. Shop and save with the 5% member discount. Enjoy your market and café.

Not a member yet?

Join at the Arena Market and Café. The cashier will give you the membership application and take your money. Or click here.

 


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