Long-term Planning

Long-term Planning Update

A lot has changed since People’s started in 1970. We’ve changed what we sell, gone through many different forms of management, expanded our building, and adopted Ends that define our goals and aspirations toward making a better Co-op, a stronger community, and a better world. Our Ends statement, adopted in 2007, reads:

A passionate community working together for sustainability, progressive land and animal stewardship, human rights, social and economic justice.

  • Thriving cooperative and local economies

  • A safe, welcoming community where all are valued

  • A Democratic workplace where all workers' voices are valued

  • Access to healthful foods our customers can trust

Even after so much growth and change over nearly 50 years, there are (of course) many challenges our community faces today. The landscape of natural food stores is very different and much more competitive than ever before. Walmart is now the largest seller of organic food in the U.S. New grocers selling many of the same products that People’s does are popping up in our community. These stores don’t prioritize people, the planet, and animals over profits as fervently as we do, and as a result, are able to cut corners. This makes it hard for the Co-op to compete, which in turn makes it harder for us to do things like pay employees a living wage. How do we uphold our Ends while competing with large corporations? How do we expand in a way that fits into the values we’re committed to as a community – the reason why People’s exists at all? The challenges these questions present make it hard for us to move forward with a second store at this time, and the financial situation that competition has helped create make it nearly impossible.

After a thorough investigation and weighing of cost and benefits, People’s will not be moving forward with a second store in the Lents neighborhood at this time. This was not an easy decision to make, and we want to thank all of the Member-Owners and the Lents community for all that they have contributed to our investigation and otherwise helped us along this long process. We will be wrapping up the long-term planning process by fleshing out a business plan that prioritizes financial stability, both at our current location and in the long-term.

One of the options we’ll outline in that business plan is to find another opportunity to open a second store sometime in the future, maybe even in Lents. We are still holding all of the relationships we’ve made and the knowledge we’ve gained as we move forward. For now, though, it doesn’t make sense for us to pursue the particular opportunity we’ve been researching in Lents Town Center any further.

This year, we are focusing on growing and investing within our current walls. If we are going to be successful in spite of so much competition, we need to make sure that we are operating as efficiently as possible. We are addressing questions like how to prioritize work tasks, revisiting our capacity for work and taking on new roles, shifting structures to streamline processes, fixing up infrastructure in the current building, adapting our products and pricing to increase sales, and so much more. All of this we are doing with our Ends in mind and the effects changes are having on workers, our Member-Owners, our customers, and the wider community. Before we can pursue more opportunities for growth, we need to have a handle on operations at our current store.

Along with pursuing options for a second store, we are also still looking at ideas such as finding a warehouse space and a kitchen to expand our selection of prepared foods. Do you know of opportunities in these areas that People’s should look into? If so, let us know! We need everyone to help us in these next steps. We would love to hear your thoughts at planning@peoples.coop.

Wrestling with Values & Growth: A Long-term Planning Update

Since the summer of 2018, the Collective Management has been actively investigating opening a second store in the Lents Town Center near SE 92nd & Foster. That process has included gathering feedback from current Member-Owners, engaging with folks that live near the proposed second store about their thoughts and concerns, taking a look at our staff capacity, and putting together financial projections about how a second store could work out.

While some Member-Owners have expressed concern about the possibility of a second store in Lents, many others have shared their support for a People’s in a new neighborhood. We’ve also heard widespread enthusiasm from the Lents community about the possibility of a People’s there, as well as some questions about how to make sure that the store reflects the neighborhood and its needs.

As we consider both staff capacity and how it interacts with the financial projections for a store in Lents, things become more complicated. The Collective has struggled with high turnover for the past few years, and in 2018 that meant investing significant time (and therefore money) training and supporting new staff. At the same time, our financial projections tell us that if a second store in Lents is going to be successful, we need to decrease our labor hours and expenses significantly. And with sales declining steadily, maintaining that high labor percentage costs to the Co-op more, proportionate to what we’re bringing in. If we’re going to open a second store and run it successfully, we’re going to need to operate this business much more efficiently.

This presents a conundrum because of the way that we run our business. Of course, operating the Co-op sustainably and making a profit is an important part of our work – that’s a huge reason why we’ve invested so much time and money trying to create a long-term plan that will work for People’s. But there are other things that we value, too! We have a democratic workplace where all workers get to have a say in the decisions that are made about how the store is run. We’re also committed to confronting and dismantling systems of oppression that show up here, including: white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and classism. We make decisions about how to care for our building or supply the store that are sometimes more expensive because they are better for the earth or workers throughout the supply chain. And we try to compensate workers fairly for the work that they do here, including a generous health care package and a wage scale that doesn’t distinguish between different kinds of work.

Unlike many other businesses that prioritize economic returns over how they do business or decide to do the work outlined above only when its convenient, working to live out the values expressed in our Ends is a central part of our work at People’s. It’s what makes this place different and is one reason why the Co-op is so important to so many people.

The Collective is working hard to figure out what it will look like for the staff to reduce our labor expenses while maintaining or even growing our sales. We’re reaching out to the broader co-op community for help and guidance, and communicating closely with the Board about the changes we are working towards. We hope that we can do this work within a time frame that will work for the Lents Town Center project because we are really excited about what we could bring to Lents and are invested in the relationships that we’ve already formed there. We’ll have more information to share about how we’ll be proceeding in the spring, but for now we are taking time to focus on our internal operations and the work that needs to happen for us to be ready to grow.

If you have skills, questions, or input to offer, we always welcome them. Feel free to reach out to the Long-term Planning Committee at planning@peoples.coop.

Looking Into Lents

As we’ve been considering how People’s can grow into the future, it’s become clear to us that the opportunities that come our way are going to, in large part, determine the outcome of this planning process. We can work and think and research and plot all we want, but there’s little use in making a plan if it can’t adapt to unexpected opportunities and challenges that present themselves.

In the Annual Report, which was published in the middle of June, we stated that we were looking to open a warehouse by the end of 2019 and to open a second store by 2023. Those were our best guesses at the time, based on the research that we had done so far and a philosophy of incremental growth. Since writing that update, we’ve dug deeper into opportunities that we first heard about in mid-May, and the cadence and timeline that we outlined in the Annual Report has changed a bit! We are still researching both a second store and a warehouse, but now we’re looking into switching the order: opening a second store in the next year or two and opening a warehouse once we get our footing at the new location.

This switcheroo is all because of a particular opportunity. As you may be aware, we’ve been interested in opening a second store in the Lents neighborhood for some time now. If you’ve been around for a long time, you might remember that the Co-op was actually considering a second store in Lents during a development process ten years ago. So when a developer that’s working on a number of projects in Lents reached out to us about a possible site for a store there, we were eager to learn more.

As we’ve learned more about the development opportunity in Lents, we think that it could be a terrific next step for People’s for these reasons:

  • The space has the potential to be built out to about 6,000 square feet, which is our ideal size for a second store.

  • It’s right next to the Lents International Farmers’ Market, Green Lents’ Community Tool Library, and Zoiglhaus Brewery, all organizations that create important resources in the Lents community.

  • It’s really close to the Boys & Girls Club, the Asian Health Center, Zenger Farm, and lots of homes, including new mixed-income apartment buildings.

  • There is great transit access: the MAX Green Line, 10 & 14 buses, 205 bike bath, and Interstate 205.

  • The company developing the site is interested in installing solar power and other green technology.

  • Lots of folks from Lents have reached out to us to ask us to open a store there, and a grocery store has been a priority for the residents for a while.

  • There are plans for a permanent farmers’ market pavilion on site.

  • There are a number of Member-Owners that live closer to Lents than our current store. If they shop there instead, it might relieve some pressure on our current store.

We also know that there are a lot of questions that we will have to seek answers to:

  • Just like here, there isn’t currently a loading dock. Deliveries could be complicated, especially big ones, unless we can find a solution in renovating the building.

  • Lents is a really different neighborhood than where we are now! How can we be a store that is relevant to the community there? Will we need to sell different kinds of food?

  • How can we avoid contributing to the gentrification happening in Lents, or be a resource to folks that are at risk of being displaced?

  • How many people will shop in Lents instead of here? Can we sustain our sales, or find a way to make up for the loss?

  • Opening a second store is a huge undertaking, and it will take a lot of dedication from our staff and current Member-Owners to make it happen. Do we have the support that we need to create another People’s on this timeline?

Over the next few months, we’ll be doing more work to find out if this is a project that we want to move forward with. That work will include talking to lots of folks in Lents about what they want from a grocer, as well as getting feedback from our current Member-Owners about their thoughts on this opportunity. We’ll also need to do more specific financial feasibility research, and conduct another market study based on this particular site. As we learn and process more information, we’ll share it with Member-Owners through the blog, Grassroots, and in-person events.

Like everything we do at the Co-op, we know that whatever development projects we decide on will have to be a community effort. We’ll depend on our Member-Owners and other folks in our community to help us make this happen, from installing store fixtures to helping us fund the project. At this stage in the process, here are ways that you can help us move forward:

  • What do you think about this project and the idea of a second store in Lents? Let us know!

  • Do you live in or near Lents? Who should we talk to about opening a store there?

  • Do you know about resources that might be helpful? What about skills you might be lend to the cause? Let us know about them!

  • Be on the lookout for more opportunities to get involved.

As we hone in on the specific projects that will shape the Co-op’s future, we as a committee are feeling a variety of feelings! We’re excited about many of the details of this particular opportunity and it feels really good to be talking in concrete terms. After talking about the future of People’s so abstractly for so long, it’s energizing to visualize the possibilities at a particular site.

We also feel some nervousness about the whole thing: concentrating our resources on one opportunity and moving a bit faster than we were anticipating a mere month ago both create some anxiety. We anticipate that Member-Owners might feel a similar mix of emotions! That being said, we are very enthusiastic about the opportunities that this site in Lents offers, and are eager to explore the relationships that we can build there, both with individuals and like-minded organizations. We’re looking forward to the next few months of research, and continuing to engage our Member-Owner community as we learn more and move toward making a final decision about this project.

If you have questions, concerns, or input, please be in touch with the Board of Directors! You can email them at bod@peoples.coop. You can also get in touch with the Long-term Planning Committee at planning@peoples.coop.

July Long-term Planning News

The Collective Management has been working on creating a plan for the Co-op’s future for a number of years now. Our strategy has been to gradually narrow our options over time until we settle on a combination of projects that can meet our needs and that we feel secure moving forward with. This process hasn’t been totally linear, but we are getting closer to making a final decision in the fall. The Collective narrowed our options in February - hopefully you read about it in Grassroots - and we did so again at the end of June with the full support of the Board of Directors. We decided:

  • To open a small second location by the end of 2023, and continue to pursue retail opportunities or other innovative ventures thereafter.

  • To not expand our current store. Instead, a committee of the Collective Management will form to conduct smaller-scale improvements on-site.

  • To continue to look into ways to collaborate with other local co-ops and rad food businesses, but not formally merging with any other local co-ops at this time.

  • To improve efficiency of systems and structures at the current store with the primary focuses of reducing labor and sustaining or slightly increasing sales.

  • To acquire and incorporate a warehouse into our operations.

  • To establish some kind of prepared foods venture (deli, juice bar, café, grab n go, etc.)

We shared that we were bringing these items to the Collective and the Board in the summer Grassroots, but a decision hadn't been made when we went to print. We wanted to be sure to share with Member-Owners that the Collective and the Board agreed that these are the ways to move forward, with minor changes to what we shared in Grassroots. 

This decision is exciting: these are the projects and elements that will guide the Co-op into the future and secure our footing for many years to come. We’re looking forward to seeing how they take shape, and where they take us.

The Collective also made these decisions with full support of the Board of Directors, which passed a resolution at their June meeting in support of the six decisions above. You’ll be able to read their statement in the Board meeting minutes by the end of July, on the bottom of this page

In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback about these decisions, feel free to get in touch with the Board of Directors at bod@peoples.coop or email the Long-term Planning Committee at planning@peoples.coop.

Synthesis Committee Update

By Jenna Whitaker, Board member

It’s a wrap! After 3 months of digesting and integrating Member-Owner feedback, the Synthesis Committee has completed its task of producing a recommendation for the Co-op’s long-term planning process. This recommendation or “synthesis” reflects the wealth of input received from Member-Owners via feedback sessions, survey responses, and emails.

The Synthesis Committee was an offshoot of the Long-term Planning Committee (LTPC) and comprised of 10 people:

  • 4 Member-Owners, each elected from a different feedback session that took place in September and October 2017: Chris Eykamp, David Todd, Judith Maron-Friend and Phil Quitslund
  • 3 LTPC Members: Ashley Todd, Finnley LoPresti and Sofie Sherman-Burton
  • 2 Board Members: Dave Wadley and myself
  • 1 Collective Manager not on the LTPC: Kahadish Wa’adabisha

Each of our meetings were facilitated by David Osborn, who also created the format we used to explore and organize the information. The work involved a lot of reading and grouping comments and ideas into common themes. It was colorful and challenging at times, but we managed to reach consensus on every aspect of our task. Our finished project is a comprehensive summary of these themes with supporting feedback, and a recommendation for the process moving forward.

While we each brought a variety of our own experience to the Synthesis Committee, it is important to recognize that many of us benefit from white privilege; the summary we made is no doubt impacted by that fact, though it is difficult to say exactly how. As a Board member, I hope that we can work to bring more diverse perspectives into our participatory processes in the future.

The Synthesis Committee recommended that the Co-op rule out the option of relocation and focus on researching options to stay viable and relevant at its current location. We received ample feedback from Member-Owners sharing their personal connection to the building and its ties to the community, along with other concerns about the financial ramifications of moving the store. Some folks shared ideas for helping us sustain in place. The LTPC considered the Synthesis Committee’s input in forming their recommendations for the Collective Management. You can read more about those recommendations and the LTPC’s future research in their update, which follows.

I would like to thank every person that wrote an email, attended a feedback session, or participated in this process in any way thus far. Your thoughts and words are meaningful, impassioned, and clearly reflective of your values and experiences. Hearing your different ideas, concerns and feelings was an incredible opportunity and an interesting way to get to know my position on the board. I look forward to seeing where this process takes us!

Process Update: Moving Forward Together


As we outlined in a previous blog post, the Collective met yesterday (Thursday, August 10th) to talk more about our long-term planning process. The original goal of this meeting was for the Collective to come to alignment on where to focus our engagement with Member-Owners going forward: either relocating in the neighborhood or opening a second store. 

Because of the feedback that we received from Member-Owners and some new information from our feasibility research, the Collective did not narrow down or rank the potential projects that are on the table. We spent the majority of the meeting talking about what getting meaningful engagement and feedback from the community looks like and how it will factor into a decision. We will be working to revise our process map and creating a comprehensive plan to allow for abundant Member-Owner input going forward. 

Also as a part of the meeting, we spent some time in small groups brainstorming new and innovative ways that the Co-op could adapt the plans on the table to be more financially viable (a clear need arising from our feasibility research) as well as fulfilling community needs that we haven't actively considered up to this point. 

We also spent some time sharing perspectives about what the last few weeks have been like for folks on the Collective: what feedback they've heard, what they've been wrestling with, what emotions have come up for them, as well as how we're generally very encouraged by the participation and passion of our Member-Owners. 

This meeting brought us to a pretty open place in terms of what our next steps are. We're in the process of planning a community forum so that we can hear from more community members and also share some information with you all -- plan to hear an announcement about that very soon. We're also planning more feedback sessions in September and opening them up to more people (though still keeping them small enough to have meaningful conversations -- we're planning to cap them at 20 folks). We'll save conversations with vendors and other community stakeholders until we have a clearer idea of what our plan is.

We're not putting this planning process on pause, but we are making space for more research and more input from our community. At the same time, we're actively tending to our financial responsibility to the Co-op given the expense of this process. 

If you have questions, input, or ideas that you'd like to share, you can send them to the Long-term Planning Committee at planning@peoples.coop. You can also get in touch with the Board of Directors at bod@peoples.coop. For more framing about our planning process and a catalogue of past blog posts and articles, check out people.coop/vision. 

From the Board: Our Special Meeting

Dear Member-Owners,

The Board of Directors (Board) and the Long Term Planning Committee (LTPC) have received many comments over the last few days regarding the nature of Member-Owner involvement in considering any specific expansion plan and the long term sustainability of the Co-op.  In an unprecedented action, the Board and the LTPC convened a special Board meeting on Tuesday,  August 8th. Nearly all Board members and the full LTPC were in attendance, and were joined by three Member-Owners, who were able to participate in a portion of the meeting and share their concerns.

This letter is one of the results of the special Board meeting and its purpose is to provide an overview of why we are planning for the Co-op’s future, what that process has looked like thus far, and what it will look like going forward.

The Co-op has been in a long-term planning process for over three years. This work began at the urging of the Board in 2014, when it was clear that the Co-op needed a directive for how to stay resilient in a changing Portland. Sales were flat, in 2014 patronage wasn’t paid out for the first time since the Co-op adopted the patronage system, and competition in the natural foods industry was only increasing, as it still is today. However, despite being a Co-op-mandated policy-governance reporting requirement, the Collective Management (CM) did not have a strategic plan for the Co-op’s future at that time. And that’s where this whole process originated -- from a clear need to address the growth and sustainability of People’s to ensure that our Co-op has a future.

Over the past two years, the LTPC has been creating that strategic, long-term plan. They held community events engaging Member-Owners around our collective vision for the future, did research into different growth possibilities, and engaged experts to gather market data and other information that will help ensure that any decisions we make  will be fiscally sound, as well as reflective of our Ends. Throughout this process, the LTPC reported to both the CM and the Board to keep the planning process in check.

We’ve come to the place where we’ve narrowed the possibilities to a couple clear options: (1) relocate to a larger location in inner SE - while keeping our current building and doing something in pursuit of our Ends here, or (2) open a second store in Lents, Milwaukie, or Montavilla. These options inadvertently became public as a result of a market study conducted in July, and were discussed with Member-Owners at our Annual Meeting on July 15th. (You can read more about that here.)

Now it’s time for us to discuss how to make a decision so that we can move forward, and stay competitive and responsive to our community’s needs. This will include outreach to the membership to inform our options and get more feedback. Events and surveys will happen in the next few months, after which a decision will be made.

The Board and the CM have already heard from a lot of Member-Owners about these plans. Some are excited about the ways that the Co-op might grow and some are very concerned that our current store might close. Many are concerned about how these decisions will be made.

It became clear to members of the Board and the LTPC that a special meeting was necessary in order to answer questions, gain clarity on the input that’s been received, and to hold space for the feelings alive in our community. Unfortunately, we were not able to broadcast this meeting to the entire Member-Ownership because of its last-minute nature.  This is the first time that a special meeting has been called on such short notice in as long as anyone can remember.

We understand that the Co-op is on the precipice of something really big, and that we collectively need to be looking closely at this decision and the process from a wide variety of perspectives.  

Stay tuned for more ways to lend your input as we move into the fall. The LTPC will be holding info and feedback sessions, possibly conducting an electronic survey, as well as holding other special informational and engagement events as part of the decision-making process. Please be in touch with the LTPC if you would like to be involved. For more details about overall the planning process, see peoples.coop/vision.

If you have any questions or concerns, please be in touch with the Board at bod@peoples.coop and the LTPC at planning@peoples.coop. We look forward to talking more with you as things move forward, and hope to see you at upcoming Board meetings and events!


The Board of Directors

How We're Deciding: The Long-term Planning Decision Making Process

With the recently announced long-term planning proposals, a lot of Member-Owners have been asking how decisions about our long-term plan will be made, and how decisions are made at the Co-op in general.

Broadly speaking, the Board (elected by you, our Member-Owners) has delegated operational decisions to the Collective Management, a group of about thirty staff members who work in teams and as a whole to run the store. Operational decisions include everything from the products we carry, to worker health care benefits, to the annual budget, to what events we hold, and so much more. The Board's job is to ensure the Co-op is run in a way that is financially responsible, legally sound, and in line with our Ends. The Board keeps tabs on how the Collective and the Co-op are doing via reports about a variety of things: our Ends, financials, our public image, staff satisfaction, and more. To ensure that communication is clear and ongoing, three Collective Managers are currently tasked with providing a link between the Collective and the Board. Additionally, one Collective Manager also serves on the Board of Directors. Of course, Collective Managers and Board directors have individual and positional relationships that encourage other communication and conversations, too.

Included in this, the Board has delegated the decisions regarding growth and expansion to the Collective within certain parameters: that the process takes Member-Owner input into account, that the project is researched for financial feasibility and meets particular financial benchmarks, that the Collective engages appropriate experts outside of the Co-op to support our process and inform our decision, and that our long-term plan advances the Co-op's work towards our Ends.

If the plan or the planning process doesn't meet those qualifications, the Board can require the Collective Management to re-evaluate or change directions in order to fulfill them. The Board also has jurisdiction over real estate acquisitions and any major loans that the Co-op takes on. This means that ultimately they have to be on board with any major plan that the Collective generates in order for it to be able to be implemented.

The long-term planning process that we're currently engaged in started two years ago with the formation of the Long-term Planning Committee. The Committee was charged with investigating how the Co-op could grow in order to move us towards our Ends, but also to address issues arising at the Co-op: that we're maxing out our space which has resulted in low sales growth and that space is tight for customers and staff, among other reasons. (You can read more about that here.)

Our original process map outlines how we're making the decision about our plan! We're almost to Step 4!

Our original process map outlines how we're making the decision about our plan! We're almost to Step 4!

To kick off our research of potential projects, the Long-term Planning Committee organized a series of listening sessions with Member-Owners and community members to hear what their priorities for the Co-op were. There was also space for Member-Owners to share their biggest, wildest dreams for the Co-op as well as what their particular needs from the Co-op are. We also conducted interviews with a number of community organizations (OSALT, Adelante Mujeres, Sisters of the Road, the Portland Mercado, and the Healthy Birth Initiative) that are also doing work towards our Ends to hear about any gaps that might exist that the Co-op would be able to fill. We also surveyed vendors and farmers.

We took the information that we heard during those outreach sessions and came up with some concrete ideas of what long-term projects the Co-op could undertake. As we were narrowing down our ideas, we did so in conversation with the Board of Directors to keep them apprised of our choices. We also had conversations with the Collective and the Board about what might actually be feasible -- financially, logistically, and in terms of our staff capacity.

Not unexpectedly, all of our ideas included expanding our grocery store. After all, running a grocery store is our expertise and increasing our sales is a major way to work on our financial feasibility. From that narrowing by the Collective, the Long-term Planning Committee started to research where else we might be able to open another location in the Portland area. We looked at where our competitors are located or have planned locations, followed leads suggested by Member-Owners and other community members, and talked to lots of folks: community groups and organizations, business associations, nonprofits, city planners, other business owners, and more. We also invited National Cooperative Grocers to do an organizational readiness assessment at People’s and make suggestions. This process narrowed our expansion options to Montavilla, Milwaukie, Lents, as well as relocating to a larger location in our current neighborhood. We enlisted a market research company out of Seattle to look closer at those neighborhoods in terms of their financial capacity to support a new or larger co-op.

Throughout this process, the Long-term Planning Committee has been in conversation with the Board of Directors, bouncing ideas off of them and talking about what the implications of different plans might be for the Co-op and our Member-Owners. We’ve also been really open to other feedback from Member-Owners throughout the process, fielding emails and suggestions -- especially with the recent news break about our narrowed project ideas. We really do want to hear from you, really do value your input, and certainly respect the stake that our Member-Owners have in this business.

So, to summarize:

  • Our Member-Owners and broader community provided their dreams and needs for the co-op

  • The Collective Management figured out how those dreams and needs can be met in a way that’s feasible for the Co-op in the long-term, with guidance and boundaries from the Board, while also addressing our primary reasons for creating this long-term plan.

That brings us to where we are at now! In the next few weeks, the Collective Management will meet to make a final decision about which development project we’re going to pursue: opening a second store in one of the neighborhoods we’ve narrowed to, or relocating to a larger location near our current store. Once we make that decision, we’ll talk more with the Board. We’re also working on organizing feedback sessions for Member-Owners to share their reactions and hear more about the Collective’s decision-making process. We’ll hold at least two of these with twelve Member-Owners each, chosen randomly from folks that express interest in participating (email us at planning@peoples.coop if you’re interested, too). We’ll also have online surveys for folks that want to provide feedback but can’t make it to one of the sessions. We’re planning a third feedback session with other stakeholders, including other members of the co-op community in Portland. These meetings (and all of the other ways that we hear from Member-Owners) will help us to figure out whether we’re on the right track. From there, we’re aiming to make a big formal announcement in the fall Grassroots in October and kick of Co-op Month celebrating that we have a plan (finally!) and talk to more Member-Owners about it.

That’s when implementation starts: working hard to find a location for a new store (whether that’ll be a 2nd store or single larger store) that will meet our practical needs and be as much of an anchor in our community as our current building is; planning a fundraising campaign and seeking loans; figuring out how to grow our staff and maintain our Collective while becoming more nimble and efficient; working out what new things will be in our new space (a deli? a cafe? a bakery?); and so many other details. We’ll need your help with lots of that, and know that this passionate community is ultimately what grounds us and moves us towards our Ends.

Our aim has always been to be transparent and open with our Member-Owners. We know that this process has taken a long time, and that a lot of you have probably been waiting for information and affirmation that you’re central to what we’re doing here. It’s been hard for us, too, that this has taken so long. But we’re moving through the planning process, and we’re beginning to work out the details of our plan. Upcoming phases of our expansion will also be hard and they will also probably take longer than we want them to.

This is also really, really exciting, though. We’re taking this big step together, in an effort to move us toward our Ends and to keep the Co-op viable for another 50 years. What we’re doing at the Co-op is really important, and has started to feel even more crucial lately: we -- this community of Member-Owners -- are providing terrific food to our community, in a way that advocates for the land, animals, farmers, workers, and eaters throughout the food system. We’re doing this not to make profit, but to provide a service to our community and an alternative to corporate business-as-usual. That’s important, compelling work that we can only keep doing if we figure out a way to grow together. That’s what this long-term plan is for.

So, let’s talk about it! If you have any questions or want any clarification, we really urge you to be in touch with the Long-term Planning Committee at planning@peoples.coop. Please let us know, too, if you are interested in being a part of our feedback sessions in September. Here’s another recent blog post with updates about the options that we are currently considering. 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 planning@poeples.coop. A reminder that Member-Owners are also always invited to attend Board of Directors meetings, which happen on the 4th Tuesday of the month at 6pm, with free dinner starting at 5:30pm. 

Big Long-term Planning Update!

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 operationally 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.

Once the initial project of relocating or opening a second store is established, 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 planning@peoples.coop.

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 (planning@peoples.coop)! 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 planning@peoples.coop.