It sounded ambitious (to an optimist), or crazy (to a lot of others): after four years of planning, fundraising and outreach, the Friendly City Food Coop committed itself to collecting more than $200,000 in member loans and adding a few hundred more member-owners, all within a month.
The coop – a member-owned grocery store that will carry local, natural, organic and fair trade goods – took its biggest step toward reality in mid-April by signing a lease for the old Mick-or-Mack building on East Wolfe Street, between Dollar General and the Post Office.
That lease, however, carried a significant contingency. It required the coop to reach its financing goal of raising $600,000 in loans from members and grow membership from more than 700 to 1,000 within 30 days. At the lease signing, the coop member loan campaign had raised $370,000. That condition on the lease set a “loudly ticking clock” and sent the coop’s board and other volunteers into a final frenzy of activity, said Ben Sandel, president of the coop’s board of directors.
“People are feeling the energy. People are feeling the momentum,” said Outreach Coordinator Suzi Carter, who has passed out too many informational packets to count in recent weeks as the coop sprints for the finish.
Carter, who’s also orchestrated a direct calling campaign and other fundraising events, said she’s confident the Friendly City Food Coop will meet its financial goals and satisfy the conditions in the lease on time. (The building’s landlord, Doug Driver, was quoted in the Daily News-Record that he’s willing to work with the coop if that doesn’t turn out to be the case). “We’re ready for this,” she said. “The idea of the coop is really starting to make sense more than it ever has.”
Nevertheless, the coop has significant work ahead of it in the final two weeks of the contingency period. Sandel said current membership now stands at about 820, while the member loan campaign has grown to around $420,000. He said the loan total is a conservative figure only including checks that have been received and processed, though additional pledges have been made.
If or when the coop meets the contingency by raising enough money to open the store, renovation of the building on Wolfe Street will begin immediately. Sandel said Blue Ridge Architects and Suter Engineering have started planning for the first phases of construction. A store design consultant, P.J. Hoffman, who’s worked on more than 400 natural foods stores and other similar projects, has also been working with the board of directors. The board is also in the last stages of interviewing prospective store managers.
Barring any major snags during remodeling, the Friendly City Food Coop will open before the end of the year, he added. “It just reflects great on the community … that everyone’s come together to invest in something that’s good for all of us,” Sandel said.
- Andrew Jenner
Six Ways to Help the Friendly City Food Coop NOW!
From a recent email the membership:
Update 1:Local Food Dinner Parties
Amount Raised: tbd (parties begin May 4!)
Update: Seven parties are booked, invitations are sent, and RSVPs are pouring in! Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and The Local Chop & Grill House have teamed up to bring you one of the seven:Local Food Happy Hour on May 5, 5-7pm. (More info in sidebar below.)
Action & Details: 10 member-owners invite at least 10 friends to a commitment dinner at their home or at a local restaurant with the goal to raise $10,000 at each dinner. You do the inviting and FCFC Board & staff supports you the rest of the way.
Your ’20 Days’ Action:
- Host a dinner party. We only need 3 more hosts to meet our goal!
- Contact Margot today! (433-2363, margotzahner [at] gmail.com)
Update 2: Direct Calling
Amount Raised So Far: $25,000!
Update: 2 successful nights of phone banking yielded $25,000 in loan commitments. 1 more calling night to go.
Action & Details: Have fun with other member-owners for a night or two of phone banking. Anyone and everyone can do this! Scripts and training provided.
Your ’20 Days’ Action:
- Make calls May 4, 6:30-8pm at EMHS, Media Center
- Contact Lynn with questions or to RSVP. (560-0379, lsleischner [at] gmail.com)
Update 3: The Great Race
The Steel Wheels vs. The Friendly City
Amount Raised: tbd (race begins May 5th!)
Update: We’ve consolidated our riders and gone virtual! 2 teams, 3 riders, 1 goal–raise money for the Friendly City! Work Arefaine, owner of The Blue Nile, Trent Wagler & Jay Lapp, of The Steel Wheels want you to support them as they race to the Friendly City Finish Line.
Plan & Details: May 5-15 fundraise money through rider sponsorships. Trent & Jay are heading out on a 10-day cycling music tour in Michigan. Work is covering ground in Harrisonburg. Push them to the front by giving as little or as much as you can! Race ends May 15th.
Your ’20 Days’ Action: Show your support by donating ANY $ amount through:
- PayPal at www.friendlycityfoodcoop.com, or
- Mailing a check with memo, “I support Friendly City/Steel Wheels!” to FCFC, PO Box 841, Harrisonburg, VA 22803
- Contact Andy with questions or to find out more! (271-2077,andyhershberger [at] gmail.com)
Update 4: Re-direct Your IRA
Amount Raised So Far: $15,000!
Update: Self-directed IRA loan option now has a $15,000 minimum.
Action & Details: Inform membership of this investment alternative through email, direct mailing and calling. Scripts and training provided.
Your ’20 Days’ Action:
- Share this investment opportunity with friends!
- If you would like to re-direct at least $15k of your IRA to an FCFC investment, contact Ben or Mike to find out more! (421-6976, ben [at] friendlycityfoodcoop.com; 246-1919, davismk13 [at] gmail.com)
Update 5: Downtown Housing Partnerships
Amount Raised: tbd (meetings scheduled for this week!)
Update: 5 promising meetings with apartment complex owners have taken place. Housing committee is following up with them this week. Door-to-door petitioning in the works to build support from residents.
Action & Plan: Secure loans for the co-op through investment from downtown rental property owners.
Your ’20 Days’ Action: If you rent a downtown apartment…
- Sign the petition and demand your convenient fresh market option 7 days a week
- Contact your landlord and encourage him/her to make a loan to the co-op
- Help get petition signatures by going door-to-door for the co-op!
- Contact Peggy to help make this action a success! (421-6137, peggy [at] friendlycityfoodcoop.com)
Update 6: In-Store Sponsorships
Amount Raised: tbd (meetings begin this week!)
Update: Parameters have been set for gold sponsorship offerings: 20 in-store advertising/promotional spaces (20″x30″) will be offered to 20 founding sponsors at $10,000 each. Meetings with businesses begin this week.
Action & Details: Negotiate sponsorships with individuals & businesses for public name recognition in the store.
Your ’20 Days’ Action:
- Committee seeks 4 strong communicators to meet with potential sponsors
- Are you a local business owner or do you know someone who may be interested in an advertising opportunity?
- Contact Jonathan (383-1861, jonathan [at] friendlycityfood coop.com) or Gil (271-3544, gil [at] friendlycityfoodcoop.com).
It’s Now or Never
So Get Involved!
Join an action committee or choose from other volunteer opportunities (e.g. graphic design, calling crew, mail labeling,
membership drive tabling, social media, etc.).
Contact your FCFC Volunteer Coordinator,
Brad Burrow, for a list of current needs:
brad [at] friendlycityfoodcoop.com or 919-357-5314
evenings & weekends if calling
This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.