What's New

  • June 19, 2014

    trophyWe are delighted to announce that Co-op Market Grocery & Deli in Fairbanks, AK is the winner of this year's Startup of the Year award. Lauded for its leadership, retail excellence, and commitment to building the local economy, Co-op Market beat out twelve other co-ops that opened storefronts since June of 2013. 

    The Startup the Year award recognizes achievement by a retail grocery cooperative in organizing and opening a successful co-op grocery store. The award--and shiny grocery cart (above)--was presented to Co-op Market's General Manager, Mary Christensen, at the annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference in Madison, WI in front of a crowd of 500 cooperative managers, staff, board members, and consultants.

    The 6,000 square-foot store opened in March 2013 and was brought to fruition by the grassroots efforts of city residents as part of a broader downtown revitalization strategy. Today Co-op Market has 2,680 member owners, 20 employees, and its sales for 2014 are on track to reaching $2.8 million.

    Co-op Market has experienced strong growth, far exceeding sales predictions, despite the many challenges of operating in Alaska. Co-op Market sits in a food desert tract where 46% of low-income residents lack access to a healthy food store within a half-mile. This new store serves a community with a high percentage of Native Alaskan households, and one where the average income is only 54% of the median. The Co-op emphasizes local products, providing a retail outlet for small farmers, ranchers, fishers, and producers in the region to sell to their own community.

    As Stuart Reid, FCI Executive Director, presented this year’s award, he stated, "Fairbanks’ Co-op Market is a role model for how an organized community can work together to create a cooperative business to meet its needs. While more distant than any startup in modern history, it took advantage of the full support that we and the food co-op community have to offer, inspiring fellow Alaskan communities to do the same." There are currently three new food co-op initiatives organizing in the state.

    There are currently 113 food co-op in development across the nation, and 70 have opened in the past five years, totaling over $155 million in annual sales, 1,006 new jobs, and 88,000 members. Forty more have stated their intention of opening in the next 18 months.

    The past year’s store openings include:

    1. Co-op Market Grocery and Deli (Fairbanks, AK)
    2. Second Kitchen Co-op (Boulder, CO)
    3. Near East Side Co-op (Columbus, OH)
    4. Honey Creek Market (Plain, WI)
    5. Hometown Harvest (Mitchell, NE)
    6. All Things Local Co-op (Amherst, NE)
    7. Waimanalo Market Co-op (Waimanalo, HI)
    8. Doylestown Food Co-op (Doylestown, PA)
    9. Purple Porch (South Bend, IN)
    10. Local First Grocery (Manitou Springs, CO)
    11. Dubuque Food Co-op (Dubuque, IA)
    12. Orcas Food Co-op (Eastsound, WA)

    The Startup of the Year award is sponsored by CDS Consulting Co-op and coordinated by Food Co-op Initiative.

    Download the full press release

  • September 10, 2013

    Food Co-op Initiative today announced Seed Grants totaling $100,000 have been awarded to ten communities organizing co-ops across the US, to be matched with equal amounts in local investments. These grants combine a $10,000 cash award with in-kind services from FCI’s experts including technical assistance, on-site training, and continued mentoring. The Initiative received 38 applications—a record high—requesting just under $380,000.

    Who were these ten co-ops, and what made them stand out from the crowd?

    This year’s grantees have all of the essential elements we look for in a startup,” says Stuart Reid, FCI Executive Director.  “They demonstrate community support, a balance of cooperative ideals with practical business requirements, commitment to best practices, and potential for retail success.“ Reid says that the caliber of applications has risen significantly over the three years FCI has offered Seed Grants, which suggests the program and the Initiative’s early support services are positively impacting food co-op development.  "These co-ops epitomize what is possible with strong leadership and access to professional support and guidance."

    Food Co-op Initiative congratulates our grant recipients!

    What follows is a very brief profile of each co-op.

    Maynard needs a co-opMaynard, MA, is an economically diverse community with a walkable downtown and a small-town feel. Assabet Village Co-op will be the only grocery store. They’ve met with strong community interest since their first meeting in February 2012. Like most of our grantees, Seed funds will be used to finance a market and feasibility study, along with training for the board.

    Baraboo Cooperative in Baraboo, WI, combines the concept of a consumer co-op (owned by the shoppers) with a worker co-op (in which employees buy equity). Their vision is a 7,000 sq. ft. full service grocery store with unparalleled service and democratic control. This group wowed us with how far they’ve come in just a year of organizing.

    group shot of bisman ownersBisMan Co-op aims to serve Bismark and Mandan, ND, with a 3,000 sq. ft. store. There is little to no access to local or organic foods in the area. They plan to use funds to support their membership campaign.

    Before deciding to create Eastwood Market & Café in Louisville, KY, organizers contacted over 275 commercial grocery chains, asking them to look at opening a store in the area. A market study indicates significant potential for a 16,000 sq. ft. natural foods grocery and café. The Eastwood organizers have strongly engaged the co-op community as they have moved forward.

    Hudson Grocery Cooperative aims to bring back a grocery store to downtown Hudson, WI. They have excelled at connecting with local business and the co-op community.

    local roots logoLocal Roots’ market study shows good potential for a 5,000 sq. ft. store in Buffalo, MN. Their store will be an outlet for the many organic farms in the area. “Not only will Local Roots be a store,” they tell us, “It will also be an education center, a community center, and an incubator for small businesses to get their start.”

    The Manchester Food Co-op currently has 755 members. They hope to open a 15,000 sq. ft. store in populous Manchester, NH. They are preparing to launch a capital campaign and hire a project manager.

    Paso Robles logoPaso Robles Food Co-op in Paso Robles, CA, is perhaps the “youngest” co-op ever to be awarded a Seed Grant. They began organizing in spring, 2013. Careful focus on the Four Cornerstones in Three Stages development model has led them to build an exceptional foundation of leadership and community support in such a short time.Richmond chalboard

    Richmond Food Co-op in Richmond, VA, hopes to open a 10,000 sq. ft. store. They’ve led a strong membership campaign and will hire a project manager this fall.

    The strong organizing team at South Philly Co-op in Philadelphia, PA, currently has nearly 500 members despite working in an area with low household incomes and limited site options. They are working closely with existing Philadelphia co-ops.

  • June 17, 2013

    Seed Grants Image

    Food Co-op Initiative is now accepting applications for grants up to $10,000 for development of new grocery co-ops. The Seed Grant program provides a cash award along with proven resources to help organizations achieve success. Food Co-op Initiative advisers will work closely with awardees throughout their organizing process, including making at least one in-person visit to the community.

    Download application guidelines

    If you are thinking about applying for a grant from FCI this summer, please plan on attending our how-to webinar, July 16 at 1PM Central. RSVP.

    Food Co-op Initiative’s Seed Grant program is designed to streamline the startup process to foster the maximum number of successful, sustainable co-ops. These competitive grants must be matched by the co-op with funds raised locally. Grants may be used for payment to professional consultants; registration fees and expenses to attend training opportunities; and initiatives supporting member recruitment, capital-raising, community outreach, or other aspects of organizing the co-op.

    In 2012, Food Co-op Initiative awarded $100,000 to 14 organizations in 12 states. Grants are funded by the USDA, Blooming Prairie Foundation, and the kind support of cooperators nationwide. The deadline for applications to be received is August 1st.

    Download application guidelines

  • June 11, 2013

    Placerville is openWhat happens when the community purchases an existing grocery store and turns it into a cooperatively owned business? What challenges are encountered, and how can this kind of project best be accomplished? A new case study by Food Co-op Initiative explores two such projects in detail.

    One is Placerville Co-op in Placerville, California. The other is Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington, Massachusetts.

    Download the PDF to learn about Placerville Co-op and Old Creamery Co-op's conversion experiences.

  • March 29, 2013

    CCMA bannerA draft schedule of startup-focused workshops to be offered at this year's Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference has been released. As in past years, Food Co-op Initiative curates this track of workshops to ensure maximum benefit to emerging co-ops.

    CCMA, to be held June 6-8 in Austin, TX, is the food co-op industry's premier event. Each year, hundreds of co-op managers, directors, educators, and consultants, plus their national allies gather for speakers and trainers from inside and outside the food co-op sector.

    You can download a schedule of workshops aimed at startups here

    Visit the CCMA website to learn more and register for the conference.

  • January 30, 2013

    Third Tuesdays at 1 PM Central, Food Co-op Initiative will be offering a series of webinars on a variety of topics relevent to startups. Expect in-depth information from subject-matter experts and a chance to get your questions answered. A full schedule of topics is available on our Events page.

  • December 20, 2012

    Ever wonder When should we incorporate? How soon can we plan on opening? or How big should our store be?

    We've been updating our FAQS page to reflect recent inquiries. There are many more questions we hope to add over the next few months, but you may enjoy what we have so far. Take a look!

    Got questions? Drop us a line.

  • December 4, 2012

    The mayor spoke at the co-op’s ribbon cutting, and it seemed like the whole town turned out to celebrate. The local paper wrote excitedly about the new grocery store. The future seemed bright. 

    Nine months later, the fledgling store was begging members for additional cash infusions. Before its second anniversary, the co-op closed its doors. 

    This story is a familiar one, and we all know the unfortunate reality. Even with the resilient foundation of community ownership, not every new food co-op will survive. As we enjoy unprecedented growth in startup efforts, it is important that we understand why some co-ops fail so that others can avoid their mistakes. 


    Read the full story in Cooperative Grocer Magazine, on Cooperative Grocer Network, or download a PDF version to share with your organizing group.

  • September 10, 2012

    Today Food Co-op Initiative announced grants to ten new cooperative grocery stores. An additional four co-ops will receive scholarships for board and organizer training. All fourteen awardees will bring a focus on local economy, community building, and healthy food options to their communities.

    Food Co-op Initiative is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping communities make their co-op vision into reality. They are the only national organization dedicated exclusively to helping startup food co-ops. Their grants, free consultations, and extensive library of educational resources have helped dozens of co-ops get their start since Food Co-op Initiative’s inception in 2010.

    Among those receiving funding is Capital City Food Co-op in Juneau, Alaska. Juneau residents began organizing in May, 2012 to bring a co-op to their remote northern city, which is accessible only by boat or airplane. “People are individualistic here,” says organizer Evelyn Rousso, “But the frontier sense of looking out for one’s neighbors is also a strong bond. Not many people could identify the Rochdale Principles, but, openness to all, democracy, honest business practices, benefits to those who participate, cooperation with others, and the good of the community are all things that really do resonate here, and are reflected in many, many ways in the daily life of our city.”

    Another grantee is Dorchester Community Food Co-op, located in one of Boston, Massachusetts’s largest and most diverse neighborhoods. More than just a grocery store, in the words of organizer Jenny Silverman, “Dorchester will be a community and worker-owned market and food hub that provides economic opportunity, healthy affordable food access, and education around healthy food choices.” The Dorchester Community Food Co-op hopes to be part of an network of social enterprises that reinvigorates their inner-city commercial district.

    This is the second round of grants distributed by Food Co-op Initiative. In 2011, $50,000 was awarded to eight co-ops. This year, nearly $100,000 will be distributed. However, Food Co-op Initiative Executive Director Stuart Reid says the financial support is only part of the package. “More important is the one-on-one mentoring we give our grantees. Along with regular contact through email and telephone, Food Co-op Initiative development specialists will make personal visits to each startup to provide educational workshops and organizational support.”

    Food Co-op Initiatives grants are funded in part by USDA Rural Development and Blooming Prairie Foundation.


    Stuart Reid


    Complete list of 2012 grantees:

    Capital City Market Co-op, Juneau, AK

    Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit, MI

    Dorchester Community Food Co-op, Boston, MA

    Fuquay-Varina Community Market, Fuquay-Varina, NC

    Gateway Food Cooperative, St. Paul, MN

    Granite City Co-op, Barre, VT

    Green Top Grocery, Bloomington, IL

    Hub City Co-op, Spartanburg, SC

    Many Hands Food Cooperative, Binghamton, NY

    Wasatch Cooperative Market, Salt Lake City, UT


    Scholarship recipients:

    Deerfield Community Co-op, Deerfield, WI

    Ellensburg Food Co-op, Ellensburg, WA

    Hudson Grocery Cooperative, Hudson, WI

  • June 29, 2012

    When in the organizing process is it time to start creating and using financial documents? Right away! Find out why and how in this workshop with Stuart Reid.

    Stuart discusses how to create a realistic development budget for starting a food cooperative, using the Sources and Uses Budget tool developed by Bill Gessner. 

    You may wish to download the related Sources and Uses Budget that Stuart will be referring to in the workshop.


    Thank you to JJ Noire, indepent filmaker, for capturing this workshop. If you are considering a worker-owned co-op, you might take a look at her other work, including This Way Out: A Guide To Starting A Worker Cooperative.