As you may have heard, People’s has been hard at work developing a vision and a plan for the co op's future.
Last spring, we held public meetings to get feedback and talked with key folks in the community that are also doing work that is in line with our Ends. Since then, the Long-term Planning Committee has been synthesizing what we heard at those events and in those meetings, talking to the Collective and the Board about what feels feasible and realistic, meeting with community stakeholders and city planners in various neighborhoods, coordinating internal work on the Collective to make sure that the Co-op is ready to grow…. And tons more work.
Along the way, we’ve struggled with what to tell Member-Owners and at what point to loop you in to what we’re planning. There are reasons we didn’t want to tell you too soon: we don’t want our competitors to hear what we’re working on and do something to thwart our perfect plan, sure. But we also didn’t want to tell you a lot of plans and then not be able to follow through on all of them (like we did in our last expansion process in 2007).
Our research process has taken a lot longer than we anticipated or hoped, and we’ve heard that’s been frustrating for Member-Owners. We get that. It has been a while since we’ve told you new information. So when folks started getting mysterious phone calls suggesting that we would be opening in Lents or Milwaukie or Montavilla, or relocating within inner Southeast, we started to hear from folks. We heard enthusiasm and concern, and we also heard, “Why am I finding out in this mysterious phone call?” and “Why didn’t the Co-op talk to Member-Owners about this?”
Well…. That wasn’t quite our intention. Those phone calls were a part of a market study that we hired professional folks to conduct to help us get more information about the neighborhoods that we’re looking at for a second store or relocation. The goal of the study was to find out what areas might be more or less financially feasible so that the Collective can consider that information when we make a decision about where we want to locate. But we didn’t read the language of the market study’s questions, and so didn’t know just how un-hypothetical their questions sounded. So, for those of you that didn’t get a mysterious phone call and haven’t heard through the rumor mill:
The Long-term Planning Committee is investigating these two options:
- Opening a second location in Milwaukie, Lents, or Montavilla, or
- Relocating our current store to somewhere else in inner Southeast Portland. We’d keep our current building and do something really exciting with it.
We honed in on the possibility of expansion when our research showed that the co op has maxed out in it's current space. Our sales per square foot are 2.5 times the national average for co ops, and sales have been flat for several years as a result. Without being able to sell any more in our physical space, we aren't able to keep up with sales inflation or the living wage. Expanding into more space is a possibility that would allow the co op to continue it's work while being financially and operational sustainable, maintaining accessible physical space for customers and staff, paying people throughout the food chain a living wage, and able to fund programs and projects that further nurture our community.
Engagements with Member-Owners, community members, and staff fostered many ideas of projects folks would love for the co op to create when possible. If it is necessary for the co op to expand, we will first tend to that project. Once it is stable and thriving, we vision researching and selecting one of the following projects to implement in time: a kitchen for the co op to carry prepared food, a community center of some sort, or a warehouse for larger orders that lower costs.
The Collective Management, which is made up of about 30 full time staff, will ultimately make the decision about which plan to pursue. Once the Collective decides where it wants to focus, we’ll hold more engagement events with Member-Owners and other community stakeholders to hear what you think about our plan. We’re expecting that those conversations will start happening in September and go into October. If you want to be involved in those conversations, just email the Long-term Planning Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This definitely wasn’t the way that we wanted to start talking with Member-Owners (and everyone else!) about the specifics of our research and plans. And, we really welcome this opportunity to be more transparent with you all, and are so grateful for the feedback from Member-Owners and other folks in our community.
If you have any feedback, information, or resources that you want us to know about, email us (email@example.com)! We are really looking forward to hearing from you and bringing more of you into this process. If you want more context about why the Co-op is talking about expanding, check out peoples.coop/vision and always feel free to be in touch with the Long-term Planning Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.