We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For

The mural at the new Citizens Co-op in Gainsville, FL is an inspiration in terms of store design as we look for a site.

The mural at the new Citizens Co-op in Gainsville, FL is an inspiration in store design.

We launched the Co-op’s membership drive less than five months ago, and since then we’ve made incredible progress! We already have over 500 Members and over $200,000 raised in capital.  Our Location Team has been working hard to find the right home for The Mustard Seed.  Unfortunately, this has been a much more difficult process than we had anticipated. After negotiating for an ideal site since February, the landlord returned our deposit this week and said that the space will not be available.  The Team has once again regrouped and is now exploring two other options in order to find a home for the Co-op.  To our growing Founding Membership, thank you for your patience and confidence through this search! We want to keep you in the loop about what has been happening, and why it’s taking so long.

What we’re looking for

Our goal is to find a 3,000-5,000sf ground floor retail location with an accessible entrance and sufficient loading space. The storefront also needs to be convenient for cyclists and pedestrians while having 10-15 vehicle parking spaces.  Proximity to Members is weighted heavily in our decision-making matrix. Appropriate zoning is also essential so we don’t get slowed down with approvals. We anticipate leasing a space, but we are open to friendly investors who want to help buy a building for The Mustard Seed.

Our goal is to create a coherent design aesthetic that is aligned with our underlying values.  The store will be “warm”, “inviting”, and “ecological” – check out our Pinterest site for some ideas that members have shared. We are also considering each location’s potential for future growth. While not immediately necessary, other co-ops have advised that this is an important factor.

Mustard Seed Members at 516

Mustard Seed Members at 516

 

The challenges

Hamilton is experiencing renewal.  We are thrilled to be part of this, but it has meant we have found it much more difficult than anticipated to find a space that suits our needs. So far the Location Team and Board have toured over a dozen potential properties. We thought we were very close with two locations. The biggest challenge we have faced is finding accessibility, a large enough space, parking, affordability, and actual availability all in one location!

The good news

This setback has caused us to re-assess our timelines for opening the Co-op. This may not be a bad thing (although we are all eagerly awaiting the day that we can start stocking our shelves with wholesome local goodness!). This means that we have a little more time to get our financing in order (we still need $300,000 in capitalization, so please invest today), to hire our general manager and other staff, to research better options for the store’s equipment, and for our Sourcing Team to connect with potential local suppliers. While the location roller coaster has been happening, our Membership Team has continued to promote the Co-op at events as we push toward our 800 member targetHere in the Ambitious City, committed people are putting their energy and support behind opening the Co-op within a year, a process which many food co-ops report can take 3-5 years.

Onward

The Location Team has already toured new locations since last week’s disappointment. Our goal is still to open the Co-op within three months of securing a site.  Our location team welcomes any tips you might have about potential downtown buildings – please email operations@mustardseed.coop if you have suggestions.  Thanks for your patience, and we will keep you updated with any news in the weeks ahead!

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What a Party! Members Flock to Co-op Launch

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Wow.

The Mustard Seed Co-op launched our membership drive last week at Hamilton’s Central Library. A diverse crowd of over 300 eager Hamilton-area residents gathered, united by their common passion for local food. After one week, 175 households have joined the Co-op by buying a $100 membership. An additional $25,000 has been loaned to the Co-op so far by members. The time is right, Hamilton is definitely ready for The Mustard Seed.

The spirit of cooperation was evident throughout the evening, with dozens of volunteers from various Action Teams working together to make every aspect of the event connect.  There was plenty of local cheese, hundreds of cupcakes, and hip “Beet the System” t-shirts for sale.  New members took home striking “Founding Member” cards and tiny mustard seedlings!

Join + Share

Our ambitious goal is to have 400 members by the end of 2012 so join today!  You can win a beautiful local food gift basket: simply refer the most members by December 31st and you will win this excellent selection valued at $100.

Looking for a unique and meaningful Christmas present that will create lasting change? Give a  Co-op membership to someone you love (please  indicate that it is a gift on the membership form and we will send a special message to the recipient).

Are you a blogger? Highlight The Mustard Seed in your blog, let us know, and each month we will draw from recent bloggers for a free t-shirt.

Do you like hosting parties? Host a membership info night; we will come to share about the Co-op with your friends and sign up new members. There are so many ways to get the word out, so be creative!

Invest in Your Co-op

The overwhelming response to The Mustard Seed crystallizes our commitment to making local, organic, and wholesome food readily available. However, in order to move forward we need approximately $450,000 in capitalization funds. The Co-op offers competitive returns on loans of $1,000 or more. Investing in the Co-op allows you to align your values with your finances, strengthening our local economy and our local food system while building a business committed to community development.

Together, we can change our food system, improve our health, and establish a viable non-profit business benefiting our local economy.  Tell everyone you can. Share your passion for local food, and we’ll realize this dream even sooner than we thought possible. And once again, thank you to everyone for making the Launch Party such an amazing experience!

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