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Pullman food co-op closer to identifying location

After looking at more than 20 locations, the team behind the Pullman Good Food Co-op has singled out a potential space for a grocery store and is in talks with the property owners.

Sue Guyett, chair of the co-op’s board of directors, shared an update on the grocery store’s progress with the Pullman League of Women Voters on Thursday.

Guyett said the board began having conversations with the property owners in January and though it has been a slow process, the owners are “super positive” about leasing to the co-op. The board zeroed in on the space after assessing multiple locations and scoring them based on its own criteria.

“We found a location that we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the best one yet,’ ” she said.

Guyett could not give any more details because the property owners have asked the board not to publicize the location.

The effort to start a food co-op in Pullman began three years ago and since that time more than 600 people have paid to become member-owners. The co-op is trying to reach a goal of 1,000 member-owners while developing a capital campaign to fund the store.

Guyett said research shows a co-op typically takes 8 to 10 years to get off the ground, but the board is working to ensure the Pullman Good Food Co-op opens sooner than that.

“The board really wants to beat this timeline,” she said. “We don’t want it to take the 8 to 10 years.”

Guyett said a consultant team with expertise in food co-op startups, Simplified Business Solutions, will be in Pullman next week to do a market analysis that will help the Pullman Good Food Co-op shape its capital campaign.

She said the board’s goal is to fund the store through grants, donations and issuing capital stock. This will reduce its debt and keep the store expenditures down “and that in turn will benefit shoppers at the register,” she said. The store will feature locally produced goods and Guyett said the board has been in touch with 30 local suppliers interested in doing business with them. She said the board is also planning to participate in a federally funded program, Double Up Food Bucks, that allows eligible customers to get a 50-percent discount on their produce.

Other plans include donating food to the Community Action Center’s food bank and offering educational programs teaching people how to shop and eat on a budget.

“The food co-op is all about food education,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

When the board first started exploring the feasibility of starting a Pullman co-op, it hired a consultant to complete a market study. The study showed a Pullman co-op could be successful even with a popular food co-op operating across the border in Moscow, Guyett said. She said that while all co-ops share similarities, they tend to reflect their community.

“This co-op will take on its own character,” she said.

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