MEMBERS MONTHLY UPDATE JUNE 2019
Seems like summer might finally be here, and with it the wrap-up of our project. We named our expansion/remodel project “digging in” because we felt that phrase represented both our decision to literally dig into our property to make room for us to grow and our decision to stay in this location and dig in, metaphorically speaking. The investment we’ve made in this location means that we’re here for the long haul. When I’m asked how long that might be, I cannot give a definitive answer, but I believe this will enable us do our daily work and let you shop here comfortably for 7-10 years or more, depending on how fast our membership grows. And in the rapidly evolving grocery world, 7-10 years is a substantial amount of time.
We waited a long time before deciding to dig in, and then we waited even longer for the design process, permitting, and finally construction to begin. An unexpected benefit of waiting was that we were able to keep running a tight operation and we kept on being profitable. As a cooperative, we can declare our profits as a dividend for our owners, which in turn enables us to keep some of that money to reinvest into our business, which we did with this project—50% was financed by the bank and 50% came from our savings. Investing in our facilities was fiscally smart and, due to careful planning, affordable. And our saving and planning meant that we didn’t need to raise prices to pay for the work (a rumor that is floating around town which is simply not true). If our prices increased at all in the past year, it was due to the cost of the products increasing, which reflects the costs of tariffs, wars, natural disasters, and so on.
In June our construction team will leave us. Pearson’s Construction has worked hard to ensure we could stay open every day during the project. The team was professional, polite, and a pleasure to work with—we will miss them! We hope in the next few months to get our “permanent occupancy” permit as well as to move on with making the place feel homier with graphics and signs that reflect “where the land meets the sea”—a theme you can see in the colors and images throughout the store. Our floors will get refinished with a simple grinding, honing, and polishing technique that will allow them to breathe and do their thing, oh so naturally! And we will work on tinkering with those areas of the store that we didn’t get quite right.
Many of the changes we made were designed to make working in the store easier: wider aisles so we can stock the shelves, deeper shelves to hold full cases, new energy-efficient equipment, more back-room space for processing, a larger staff break room, and a second staff bathroom to minimize wait times. Some of those changes had a secondary benefit of making it easier to shop as well. By improving the store for staff, we think we improved the store for customers—a true win-win.
And yes, we’re planning a grand re-opening party for our members, a “thank you” for your patience and support throughout the project. We’re hoping to have food, fun, local vendors, some special deals, and store tours. Keep a lookout for the announcement and mark the date on your calendar. I look forward to seeing you then and showing you what we have accomplished together!
general phasing of project
*subject to change
MONTHLY PROJECT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS MAY 2019
Sometime earlier this spring I felt that we were over the “hump” in our remodeling project, but May will be the ultimate push toward the finish line.
Our new north entry way should be open by the time you read this and we are so excited! This is now your main entrance and exit. Here you will find shopping carts, bulk water, our up-cycling station (for empty jars, egg cartons and plastic), empty boxes, and our demo cart. Our marketing team has painted two lovely murals in this bright, welcoming space, and we think you’re going to love it as much as we do!
The first full week of May we will have the second and final delivery and installation of our new cases. It will be an interesting week for all of us with big changes in the back half of the store. In this phase, we will finish the transition of our old back rooms into retail space. Along the far north wall, you will find bread as well as frozen and fresh meat. Turning right along the back wall, you’ll find six feet of seafood, plus our relocated egg case, just in front of the dairy case. We’re moving the cheese and “grab & go” cases to where the olive oil, pasta, and tomatoes used to live, and installing a new food bar with hot entrees, soups, and salad ingredients. Phew! We’re excited for this addition to our Co-op and nervous at the same time, as it will be a big change for our staff, affecting what they do every day and how they do it. During this week, we’ll also bring in the new deli counters and bakery case and refresh the kitchen work spaces. As you can imagine, it will affect our ability to produce deli food, so thanks in advance for being patient with us as we go through this stage of our remodel.
The following week we plan to tear down all our old grocery runs and build new ones in slightly different places. This work will mostly happen overnight, and we plan to do the work in such a manner that you can still find all your favorites grocery items. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? Hopefully, it will all go according to plan, just like the best magic tricks!
With most of the major interior changes completed, we will then tackle the final steps: remodeling the south entrance into a personal care nook and adding an exit at the south corner. This door will not be a dedicated main entrance or exit but more of a side door leading from the relocated dining room for anyone who wants to use the courtyard or access the bike racks. Once the new nook is completed, our Wellness crew will reset that area for the final time and we will re-open the dining room. Many people have asked when that will be, and I’m afraid all I can say with certainty at this point is “soon.”
Following on the heels of all of this work will be a few more months of cleaning up, adding in-store graphics, rearranging product, and generally finding our way to a new “normal.” Thanks again for all your positive comments during the past few month—I must agree with you that the Co-op is looking awesome! And I want to add that your positive feedback has been great for all the people who have worked so hard on this project to hear. Thank you so much for being part of our digging in story!
MONTHLY PROJECT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS APRIL 2019
March brought lots of physical changes to the store, but none were more noticeable than the installation of the two new produce cases, the dry produce tables, the drinks cooler, and the frozen case. If you missed it, in just one night, out went our old, rusty, damaged, and ailing old produce cases and in came all the new energy-efficient, larger ones.* It took a few days for all the cases to be hooked up and running, and then a few more for our staff to fill them—but it sure was worth the wait!
In the next few weeks, new lighting will be installed, which will highlight how pretty our produce looks. We are also eagerly awaiting the reopening of our newly rebuilt front entry. Staff are looking forward to having just one front door and one centralized place for water sales, up-cycling (egg cartons, empty jars etc.), shopping carts, and so on. And our marketing team is planning to paint another lovely mural there with “Welcome” in large, cursive letters.
With the opening of the north entry, we will say goodbye to the south entry. The next step will be to remodel that space (removing the doors and the support column) and turn it into a comfortable place to shop for personal care items like shampoo, lotion, and other goodies. Our Wellness office is moving over there as well, so our awesome staff will be on hand to help you find whatever it is that you are looking for.
The final part of our remodel will entail removing our old, slightly quirky reach-in freezer as well as the old beer cooler and meat case, and we’ll tear down the rest of the backroom wall to open even more space in the shopping area. At the same time, our deli will also be getting a facelift, with new counters and the much-anticipated food bar (hot and cold entrees, salads, soups, etc.). It’s all going to be amazing and we are all super excited for this final phase. And yes, when that is all complete, we will open up our new dining area at the front of the store, and yes, we will bring back the dishes and cutlery, so you can “eat in,” if you so desire.
One of the most common questions I encounter is “When will all this be done?” Frankly, I wish I knew, but I don’t! My best guess is that construction should be “done” by mid-May, but to be honest, there will still be a long punch list even then. And as we grow into our new work and shopping spaces, there will be even more tweaks to accommodate unforeseen or unintended results. One thing I have learnt through this project is that no matter how many times we measured and drew up plans, adjusted, and re-calibrated, it was hard to know what it would feel like until we saw it in real life. We’ve had to make quite a few changes to our original plans, but overall it feels great—and I think it is even better than I dreamt!
Thanks for your continued support, patience with the process, and positive comments—that means so much to our staff, who have poured their hearts and souls into making this the best little co-op anywhere!
February 2019 EXPANSION UPDATE
Work progresses at the Co-op despite the cold weather and the challenges it brings. Last month we began laying the foundation for our new north entry. Designed to be warm, inviting, and light filled, it required we dig down deep—literally—and remove any unsuitable soils before replacing them with CDF (Controlled Density Fill), just as we did with the addition for our new backrooms. Many of you may have noticed the smell of the decomposing peat—pee yew, as my kids used to say. But that wasn’t our biggest obstacle so far—that award goes to a nasty clog in our drains that closed us down for half a day. Turns out the work we are doing dislodged old, hard grease in the pipes (think 40-year-old bowling alley French fries), which in turn created an 8-10 foot long blockage that shut us down, much like a heart attack! Fortunately, our construction crew was on site and able to call in the experts, all of whom worked late into the night to ensure we could re-open on time the next day, which we did. Thanks for the hard work everyone!
The Bulk and Wellness Departments have now been moved—thank you for all your positive feedback—and we are now preparing the Front End for its many changes. You may have noticed a black-plastic wall across the front of the store where Wellness used to be. This space is on its way to becoming our new eating area. Two new windows will be added to the west wall as well as a single door on the south wall. A new counter will include a hand washing sink plus room to stash the high chairs. On the opposite wall, we’ll have a bus station for dishes, recycling, and trash. Our creative staff have some great ideas on how to make the space easy to navigate and even more enjoyable to eat in than the previous location, although we don’t expect to re-open the eating area until near the end of our overall project.
Beginning next week, the check stands will begin their migration forward towards the west wall (the Kearney Street side). We will be switching up the order of the check stands at the same time, so the express lanes will be located straight down the aisle from the food bar. This work may take up to two weeks to complete, but we’ll do our best to ensure you get through the lines as quickly and smoothly as possible. As you can imagine, this work is complex and will require that from time to time one or more of our registers be off line and thus unusable. To help facilitate check out during this period, we will bring in extra staff and, for a limited time only, bring back the deli register.
At the same time our customer service desk, known by many of you as the MSD (Member Service Desk), will be moving to its new home on the “island,” which will also eventually house a closet for water filters and the vendor booth. I’m calling it an “island” because it does not back up to a wall, as the Member Services area does now. Instead, it will be between the entrance and exit doors, and easily accessible for customers entering the store.
After the front-end work is completed, we’ll move to expanding the retail floor space by taking over the old back rooms, which will enable us to slightly enlarge our produce department. We will then rearrange the produce cases and tables to be even more inviting when you come in through our new entrance. We’ll have a new, more efficient freezer, new cases for meat and seafood, and a larger single-serve beverage case so all the cold drinks can be in one place. Finally, the deli will get a facelift before we bring in the new 26-foot hot/cold food bar, which will include a salad bar, hot food and soups and ends much nearer the check stands than the current set up. Whew! It’s all been so exciting! And thank you again for your patronage and the sweet notes of support as we navigate these many changes. We can’t see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel yet, but we know we’re getting closer every day!
Please free to contact me if you have any questions or comments, either via the phone (360-385-2883 x 303), through my work email (GM@foodcoop.coop), or you can use a new address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 2019 - Expansion Update
This past month we moved into our new addition, and staff are already getting accustomed to their brand-new bright and well-organized workspace—how quickly we forget what it was like before! (For details on this new space, check my December update.) We also remodeled the exterior of our public washrooms, giving us additional floorspace as well as room to build our redesigned entrance. The bathrooms are freshly painted, but they are still works in progress. We have some fun decorations planned, inspired by our natural environment—think land and sea.
And now we begin work on the new entrance itself. When it’s complete, new entry doors will welcome you on the north side of the building (the non-water side), away from prevailing winds. The space will have a simple concrete floor and walls that are half concrete and half glass. Brightly lit and easy to navigate, the entry will house our water machine as well as much of our “up-cycling,” such as boxes, jars, and bags—a dedicated place where you can give us your reusable containers and take our reusable boxes. Our shopping carts, fresh flowers, and a few other necessities will also live here. In the meantime, while the contractors work on the new entrance, everyone will need to use the south entrance (facing Penny Saver). Disabled parking will be temporarily relocated to that side of the store, as will bike racks.
This upcoming weekend, bulk foods will move into our old dining area, and we are super excited! It’s taken a lot of planning, but we think we’ve come up with a great layout. We’re looking forward to having all of our fun (read: messy) stuff in one place. Along with all the usual bulk items, we’ll have room for bulk spices and liquids, with a sink nearby for easy cleanup. (I’ll be writing about our new dining area in a later post.)
When the new bulk area is complete, the general contractor will get to work on the old bulk area—painting the wall, refinishing the floor—preparing for the Wellness Department to relocate. We think the move will happen in two parts. The first part will be a temporary reset in mid-January, when some wellness items will move to the old bulk area, giving the construction crew room to work in the front of the store to prepare for the new dining area. The second half of the move will happen after we complete the work on the new entrance, some time in March. Once the new entrance opens, the Wellness Department can move into the space occupied by the current south entry. Whew! It’s a complex puzzle we’re putting together!
In the meantime, we had a great holiday season at the Food Co-Op. Thank you for shopping at your co-op! We appreciate that it isn’t always easy finding a parking space, but many of you are shopping earlier or later in the day, which really helps. Thank you for your patience and your commitment!
December 2018 -Expansion Update
As the holidays fast approach, it seems to me that our planning picks up speed as we all hurtle toward a designated date for holiday festivities. Here at the Co-op, we are doing the same thing as our new addition approaches completion. We have accomplished a lot, and there will be several temporary changes that may affect your shopping experience coming up in the next week or so.
We’re eight months into our project and ready to move into the next phase—but we’re challenged by not having a firm date to make our plans around. That’s just the nature of construction schedules. Not that I am complaining; in fact, it’s the opposite. We’re totally excited and can’t wait to move into our new workspace. Regardless of when the actual date arrives, we are preparing thoroughly so that when we’re given the “green light” to move in, we will be able to respond quickly.
Our new workspace is clean and well lit, it’s well organized and it feels so much more functional! To recap: we have a larger produce cooler designed to allow us to roll pallets into the cooler before unloading. The new workspace also has many work tables, lots of large sinks, and even a newly designed station for staff who need to sit down and plan orders, plus work stations for grocery and receiving. We’ve installed a large walk-in freezer for the grocery and meat teams to share, a walk-in cooler for grocery. We also added a larger chilled work room for meat preparation, a larger staff break room, a server room with lots of electrical panels (and miles of lovely conduit!), and last, but certainly not least, a second staff bathroom. Outside, our space to receive deliveries is twice as big as it was, as is our waste/recycling/compost area. Whew! That’s a lot of new space and we are super pleased with how well it’s turned out.
Once our staff has moved in (we need a temporary occupancy permit before we can do that), we will begin remodeling the public washrooms and our cashier office. The doors on the bathrooms are being reoriented to give us a little more room for our new front door.
While this work is being done, there will be a few changes up front that we want you to be prepared for. The community board and telephone will need to come down, as will the TV and the vendor alcove. They will all be back, but it will take some time—up to three months—as things get reworked and relocated. While the bathrooms are out of commission, we will bring in two “honey huts” (portable toilets, one will be ADA) for customers to use. We expect this will all take place during our upcoming busy holiday season, so thank you in advance for being patient with us as this important work gets completed.
Between Christmas and New Year’s, we plan to move our bulk department into the current dining room. But before that can happen, we’ll need to add some more electricity to the room, which means we need to close the dining room while this gets work done. So, what does this mean for you and our great food? We will still be cooking up a storm, but we will close the deli register (for good) and store away the dishes (just during construction), so you’ll be getting your deli favorites as take out.
Thank you once again for bearing with us during this work—we know it can sometimes be trying, and we are grateful that you support us as we work toward an even better Co-op, with more awesome food options and a bright, fresh look that we think will take us well into the future. Thank you and Happy Holidays!
November 1st, 2018 Expansion Update
As the days get shorter we are getting closer to moving into our new workspace at the Co-op and staff are busy planning both how to make the transition and in which order we think it’ll happen. In fact, the move has about 7 different teams scratching their heads and planning their work; from moving our receiving desk (currently in the south entrance) back to the north side to grocery moving out of the dining room. Other departments such as produce, meat, wellness, IT, maintenance and even the front end have a role to play and work to do, so frankly it’s an all-out team effort. Right now we are planning for this work to occur shortly after Thanksgiving, however, we still don’t know exactly when….ack! Don’t worry, we’ll let everyone know when we know, I think we’ll be simply too excited to keep it a secret!
Inside the store you may have noticed that some of the floor tiles have been removed. Possibly you recall me telling you earlier that the tile is beginning to disintegrate which I’m told is a result of us being built so low (just a little bit over 9ft above sea level). Apparently, the salts are seeping up through the concrete and, in turn, destroying the tile. The advice we’ve gotten is to take up the tile and leave the floor to do its thing—settle and breathe, so, our plan is to do just that. Eventually we will polish up the floor before putting on a light sealant, but basically it will look much as it does now with the ‘ghost’ of the tiles providing the pattern. We will also see any cuts, repairs or any other ‘imperfections’ in the floor—a far cry from the multi- hued/multi-patterned floor that we‘ve all been used to. And while I know some of us will miss that vibrant floor tile I think that the concreate underneath has its own type of quiet beauty that will allow us to better showcase the inherent wonder of our products and people. Over the upcoming months, as time allows, the construction team will be working their way around the store pulling up tile and preparing us for the final finished product.
Please remember that during this next phase (Phase2) we will be rebuilding our north entry and all customers will need to use the south door (the bay side) for about a month.
Oct. 19th, 2018 Expansion Update
Week of Monday 10/22- Friday 10/26-
Cranes lifting compressors onto the roof top of the addition
Preparing the back end of the parking lot for paving
Paving the back end of the parking lot
Oct. 4th, 2018 Expansion Update
This month we expect to complete most of the work on our addition, also fondly known as Phase 1. As we come down to the end of this section we all feel like progress is finally being made. This past week the shingles were installed on the addition and soon (weather permitting) you’ll see them being painted. Both the shingles and the concrete are to be painted or stained a warm, deep grey. Recently I told the staff that my new favorite color is grey- why? Because it hides the dirt so well!
In October we will complete the interior work, install new cooler boxes and fire doors and basically work our way towards a ‘temporary occupancy permit’. As soon as that permit is approved we can move our base of operations into that space. But before we can use all of it we will also need approval from the health dept. to ensure that any food preparation is being done safely. I can easily imagine those permits may end up arriving on different days, or even weeks, so it is possible that we could begin to work in our addition but not be allowed to fully utilize our new meat department (for example) –I’m sure it will be yet another lesson in patience and flexibility, for all of us!
When Phase 1 is completed work on Phase 2 – preparing to change the dining room into our new bulk room-- will begin as soon as possible. The other big project we are planning during this phase is remodeling the north entry. During this time all customers will have to use the south entry (the Penny Saver side), please note: this is a temporary change that will last only as long as it takes for the construction crew to do what we’ve asked them to do (for more information on our plans please read last month’s blog).
While the crew is working on the north entry we will also need to make some temporary modifications to our parking area. For example the GC will need to relocate their work shop closer to their new work area. Please be aware that it is possible that they will need to occupy a few parking space during this phase, but we are all hoping this phase doesn’t last too long.
Talking about the entry way—you may remember this will be the home of the water dispenser, in addition to shopping carts, empty boxes, etc. Recently several customers have asked us to add a second water dispenser and we want you to know that we hear you (and see you lining up!) and it is under consideration. However, as with most things, we also have to balance time and money, so it is possible we won’t able to add that second spout this year. Frankly, we all know how complex projects like ours have a way of costing more than planned. And, in our case, we are committed to ensuring that our work is functional and safe, if not pretty, in order to be cost effective. In fact, we are so committed to keeping this project affordable, we are looking for ways in which we can save money now—like an awning over the front door—and postpone these desired items until another year.
Thanks to all of our members for supporting their Co-op so far through this project. We appreciate your flexibility and patience with us —and hopefully you’ll continue to do so as we navigate the rest of this work. We are still super excited about the planned changes and look forward to each new phase! It’s all fun!