Since 2009 a group of committed residents in the West Seattle neighborhood of Delridge has been exploring ways to bring healthier food options to their neighborhood. They’ve tried on various models, starting with a mobile market that gave away produce and now focusing on a member owned full line grocery cooperative that is co-located in Delridge Supportive Housing. They are in the midst of an intensive membership campaign, which was recently informed by their participation in the Health Enterprise Development Initiative.
Tell me about Delridge Grocery Co-op.
Concerned about the absence of grocery stores and produce markets in our community, a group of Community members created a mission to bring sustainably-grown, pesticide-free produce at affordable prices to the Delridge corridor of West Seattle. As a co-op, we invited input from future members and learned that there was a desire for a full-service neighborhood healthy foods grocery store. We have created a partnership with Downtown Emergency Service Center and plan to open a 1500 square foot fgrocery co-op in the spring/summer of 2015. Currently, we are in the startup phase of signing up new member/owners, asking for member loans, and pursuing additional loan and grant options.
What difference are you trying to make in the food system?
Reasonable and affordable access to food staples is a real concern in the eastern half of West Seattle. We are inspired by successful food co-ops of the past and present and intrigued by the way the co-op model can adapt to the future and the unique needs of the community it serves. We are well on our way towards opening the region’s first multi-stakeholder food co-op. This means the store is owned by the consumers, food producers, farmers, and store workers. In this way, we can combine the energies and talents of all sectors of the food system to promote education and shared knowledge of the issues surrounding our food. The Delridge Grocery will nurture the community it is a part of by offering a store full of healthy food at affordable prices.
What goals do you have for the project?
Our current goal is to open a store in the heart of the North Delridge neighborhood. We are negotiating with our future landlords and intend to open in 2015. Based on our projected store size, we need a significant number of members to pay towards their voting share. As an outreach tool, as well as a way to bring local produce to the community now, we are excited to be operating a small summer produce stand near our future location in mid-July through mid-September.
How has HEDI helped you refine your business model?
Participation in the HEDI class has helped us at a crucial turning point. As our member campaign was moving along slower than we had expected, we had to delay our plans for a summer 2014 opening. The instructors encouraged us in and out of class to think of alternative models at this stage. The summer produce stand option became our next step.
We also appreciated the constructive advice from our HEDI instructors, mentors, and fellow classmates in developing our investor pitch. The homework led our board to develop more focus more on how we are communicating to our current and future members, as well as potential outside investors.
What advice do you have for other food businesses?
Be open to change and always look for ways to reevaluate and take on different perspectives. And don’t forget to seek out mentors!