Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to join the Co-op?
Member-Ownership is a one-time investment of $200 per household or business with no annual fees. This can be paid in full or in quarterly installments using a payment plan. Each household or business owner receives one share, one vote in the Pullman Good Food Co-op. As part of our mission the co-op is accessible to everyone in the area. Therefore, we offer memberships for students and those on food assistance.
Is there a location?
We have viewed many locations in Pullman! Specifically we have viewed 1234 S. Grand Ave. that has many of the attributes the Co-op needs in order to be a successful community co-op grocer. The interior is open and ready for remodeling to suit a grocery, cafe and deli. There is abundant parking, and a lovely outside area away from traffic and complete with a small stream and sunny hillside. We envision demonstration gardens, walking trails and a great place to site outside in good weather. There is adjacent building space for like-minded businesses to join us.
In order to acquire this location we need angel investors to provide member loans, or community-minded investors to purchase the site and lease back to the Co-op. Are you interested?
Are you part of the Moscow Food Co-op?
No, this Co-op is a separate group of local residents and business owners that have come together to start a food co-op in Pullman. Community-owned and collectively grown!
When will the store open?
The store will open when there are sufficient fully vested members who have joined. To finance the store, lenders need to see that there is a base of customers who will shop at the Co-op after it opens. One of the best ways to do that is to register 1,000 fully vested Co-op member/owners.
I'll join when the store opens.
That's like saying "I'll invest in my business after it's up and running." You can do that. But if you wait, you run the risk that the Co-op won’t open at all. The reason is that lenders need to see that there are enough committed people in our region who will shop at the Co-op after it opens. To do that, 1,000 owner-members need to register. The sooner you join, the sooner the Co-op will open. The longer you delay, the longer it will take the Co-op to open.
What is a food co-op?
A co-op is a business that is owned by its members. Those Member-Owners have a direct say in how the co-op operates. Additionally, many co-ops support other parts of the community through programs and philanthropic activities as part of their commitment to cooperative values and principles. A food co-op is a true community gathering space! This community approach to business is at the heart of the cooperative philosophy.
Original art by Hallie Zillman, courtesy of Willie St. Co-op
How is a co-op different from a supermarket?
Co-ops are owned by people who live in the community in which they’re located. The co-op’s management is governed by a board of directors that the local owner-members elect. This gives co-op members and customers much more direct control of the co-op and the food they eat. Also, the co-op’s money is kept in local banks and the co-op’s profits stay in our area instead of being sent off to pay for regional and national levels of marketing and management.
Co-ops also tend to have an approach of “working with” consumers instead of “selling to” consumers. For example, co-ops typically conduct ongoing food and nutrition education programs for their customers and in local schools. The Pullman Good Food Co-op hopes to support our local school greenhouse programs and educate children on making healthy food choices. In addition, many co-ops work directly with local farmers and food producers to encourage – and, in some cases, financially support – tests of new crops, new food products, and expanded production. Supermarket chains rarely become so deeply involved in consumer education or in the agricultural economy of a local area.
Who controls the Co-op
In our community, members democratically control the direction of the business. Each member has equal ownership. As we grow, a member-elected board of directors will monitor the business, set goals, and hire management to operate the business. The board of directors is accountable to the members for its decisions. As a member you can run for board election too!
I'm a member! What more can I do to help?
Recruiting members is a great way to help! Let us know if you need brochures. We also have opportunities for volunteers to serve on committees (marketing, membership, education and others). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
There is also an opportunity to help with the store’s capital campaign. If you are interested in helping, contact us at email@example.com. The quickest way to get the Co-op off the ground is through angel investors.
This is a Co-op. That means as a shareholder you have a direct ownership in the organization. You own it. You own a piece of a democratically run, community based company and as such, you can have a say in how it's run just by getting involved. We use Member and Owner interchangeably, but remember, they mean the same thing. You own it. It's your store.
Why is it important to build membership before the store opens?
First, it indicates confidence in our future success and a level of community support that is important to our lenders and potential investors. In other words, membership equity is the basic building block of our capital foundation and is the key to bringing other investment resources on board. Second, the larger our Co-op membership, in particular, the greater the base from which we can expect a larger pool of member-owners who will be willing and able to invest in the Co-op through member loans.
What if the Co-op isn't able to get 1000 members?
The board of directors believes that, without 1,000 owner-members, it will be more difficult for the Co-op to attract financing and, therefore, be more difficult to open the Co-op’s market. The Co-op's board will use the results of the market and feasibility study to demonstrate that a market exists for the Pullman Good Food Co-op and will consult with potential lenders and other experts to decide to pursue the project and continue to seek the necessary additional members. If membership is below 1000 then one option might be to open a smaller store and grow.
How big will the store be?
The market study, completed in May 2019, provided data that offered good insight into how big a store the area’s consumers are likely to sustain. Best estimates are that the store will open with about 6,500 square feet, and could ultimately grow to be about 10,000 square feet. In contrast, the Main Market in Spokane is 9500 square feet, and the Moscow Food Co-op is 15,000 square feet.
Can I shop at the Co-op even if I'm not a member-owner?
Definitely. Everyone is welcome to shop at the Pullman Good Food Co-op. However, your membership will help the Co-op open sooner and stronger.
If I'm a member-owner, do I have to work at the Co-op once in a while?
No. The Co-op will have a paid staff. member-owners will not be obligated to work at the Co-op. The co-op will employ 20-30 people from our community. There are also current volunteer opportunities to get the Co-op up and running, and there will be volunteer opportunities at the Co-op.
What is the role of a co-op member-owner?
The roles of a co-op member are governance and leadership via the ability to elect (and to serve as) Board members and vote on co-op policies and practices. Member-owners also help capitalize the Co-op through their memberships/equity share and through member loans. Member-owners share feedback through participation in voting, volunteering, and working with the board on issues important to fulfill our mission. It's your store! Volunteers are always needed to help with events and are welcome to be part of groups and committees that will guide the future of the market.
What are the benefits of joining the Co-op?
Membership conveys many benefits! In addition to having a voice in decisions related to the store by selecting Board members, joining the Board or committees, there are both pre-and post-opening benefits. Prior to the store opening, member-owners may participate in educational programs and workshops, receive member discounts or special benefits through local businesses, and attend benefit events either for free or at a reduced member rate. Once the store has opened for business, member-owners may receive annual rebates, based on their purchases, in profitable years. But, most importantly, member-owners make possible a community-owned grocery store that supports our local,rural economy.
Don't co-ops just sell organic and health foods?
No. The food and products inside the co-op will directly reflect the needs and values of the member-owners. The Co-op will stock the foods members will buy. We are basing the current direction of the Co-op from a community survey conducted 1.5 years ago, and from more recent member comments. Pullman Good Food Co-op will emphasize locally raised produce, meats and grains, and will make it easier for shoppers to make healthy food choices than one might find be able to make in chain supermarkets.
While co-ops do generally stock organic and some “specialty” foods that would be hard to get elsewhere, each co-op is tailored to serve its local community and the needs and preferences of its customers. Rather than being all-organic and, therefore, possibly higher in price, our co-op will adopt a hybrid product mix. Pullman Good Food Co-op’s primary focus will be on local food and products, organic and non-organic, and will also stock a range of grocery staples that the community asks the store to carry, although it may take the co-op a while to grow big enough to reach that goal.
Why should I give money to a for-profit business?
If you're joining, you are not making a charitable donation as the Co-op is not a federal 501c3. We are registered with Washington State as a non-profit cooperative and your membership means you’re buying an ownership share, just like buying a share of stock in a company, only you are a lot closer to this company than what's traded on Wall Street. Owners share in the co-op’s profits when the board of directors declares a distribution, just like a shareholder in a corporation does, but here you have the opportunity to really be involved in a community-owned company and to invest in something that has a direct impact on where you live.
Will the Co-op support or compete with local farmers markets?
Experience around the country indicates that food co-ops and farmers’ markets not only coexist successfully, but also strengthen each other. Both co-ops and farmers’ markets promote fresh, local products and a healthy food culture. Whereas, farmers’ markets are often seasonal operations, co-ops provide a consistent outlet for local producers and farmers to sell their produce and products year-round.
Won't the Co-op be too expensive for most of us to shop there?
Shopping at the Pullman Good Food Co-op is not an expense, it’s an investment. You are investing in your health and the health of your family and community when you shop at the Co-op. The Co-op will not be able to under-sell a chain supermarket on every item. However, Pullman Good Food Co-op will continuously seek out and offer special buys to customers wherever possible, often competing with prices at nearby supermarkets on a range of items.
Also, Pullman Good Food Co-op will eventually belong to the National Cooperative Grocers Association. This group of over 200 co-op food stores has enormous collective buying power, keeping prices as low as possible. The co-op’s buyers will work with local farmers and food producers to establish a pricing structure for their products that is fair to both them and to co-op shoppers. In addition, co-ops' buyers are always scouting for bargains that can be passed on to their customers and often find items that can be price-competitive with chain supermarkets.
Will there be ways to reduce pricing? And what about "sustainability" in your operations?
Reduced packaging will help to keep prices down. Often times packaging is an excessive or expensive part of our purchases. Our store’s mission is to be environmentally responsible and minimize packaging by offering bulk items sold in reusable containers. At every turn, the store will look for ways to minimize environmental impact, increase efficiencies, and make a difference in the local community and in our world!
Will the prices be close to what I find at the chain stores?
The co-op will not be able to under-sell a chain supermarket regularly or on every item. Prices for many items at the co-op may be above those that a national chain can offer. However, Pullman Good Food Co-op – as most co-ops do – will continuously seek out and offer special buys to customers wherever possible, often competing with prices at nearby supermarkets on a range of items.
Besides prices, why would I want to join and shop at the Pullman Good Food Co-op?
When thinking about prices at a co-op, it’s important to remember that a co-op’s prices bring other kinds of value. A co-op’s profits stay in its local community.
Shopping at a co-op is, very literally, investing in the economic health of your community!
How do I keep up on the latest news from the Co-op?
Follow our handle @pullmangoodfoodcoop on Facebook and Instagram, sign-up for our eNews and, of course, stay tuned here on our website.
If you find you have more questions you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org