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Comments

Jim

Very exciting. Bellingham has a downtown food coop that is a venerable place to purchase and enjoy quality food, and where information and good spirits abound! Let's embrace this concept - thank you to the movers who got this off the ground.

benJAMMIN"

Sweet location.

Jon Snyder

Since I live near downtown I will be one of small amount of residents who can bike or walk to the co-op. To say that my family is psyched about the prospect of the co-op is an understatement.

But the obstacles to making a co-op work seem significant. The big reason that national or local grocery chains have not located downtown is simple: lack of downtown residents. Because the amount of people living downtown is so small it presents another problem for the Main location--the lack of parking. Most folks will want to drive to the co-op. Where will they park?

I don't mean to be pessimistic, but another problem the co-op will face is competition. Big box retailers and grocery stores have been aggressive about adding organic, local and natural foods. (Though, they still lag WAY behind what they could be offering.) Heck, Rosuears in Brown's Addition now has organic mangos.

I know many of the folks working on this project and if anyone can solve these problems they can. Still, I think we need to pray for some real residential development in the U-District and that the co-op hires some folks with great retail experience. Otherwise we could end up with another situation like Global Folk Art--a great community-minded, non-profit business that couldn't quite make a go of it.

PS. This is not the "First" co-op in Spokane. I remember buying carob chips at the old hippie co-op on Sunset Highway when I was a kid in the 70s.

Contrarian

Jon is right. Because onsite parking is seldom feasible, downtown grocery markets must depend upon foot traffic --- people who live nearby and can walk to the store, and there are very few people who live close enough to walk home from that location with bags of groceries. Moreover, those who do tend to be lower-income, e.g., the residents of the Park Tower, and perhaps students from the U district. Most of them will not be willing to pay premium prices for "organic" foodstuffs; they'll be after chips, soft drinks, beer, and Ramen Noodles. The upper-income clientele for organic products will stick to Huckleberry's, which will be closer to most of them and where they can park.

Methinks the organizers have not done their demographics.

Jim

If you offer a quality product, people will come. Parking is not a problem in downtown Spokane. Folks like Contro like to toss out excuses for failure. Yes Huckleberry's does exist close to the comfort zone. Actually I like the idea of getting out of a comfort zone and coming downtown even though students and low income types might be lurking about. I wish the best to this effort and look forward to becoming a loyal customer. Those who criticize change are those who have kept our fair city stuck in the past for way too long.

METROSPOKANE

As this place will be a 'destination' retail the issues about surviving on foot-traffic alone really are misplaced. The Farmer's Market has the same challenges and is in perhaps a more hostile environment as far as quality urban spaces go, and it's doing just fine.

Jon Snyder

Jim is missing the point. Nobody is "criticizing change" here. Everyone I know desperately wants the co-op to work, but there are challenges. One of those challenges is NOT "coming downtown even though students and low income types might be lurking about."

Groceries are perishable. Once you buy them you need to get them home in a timely manner. If you don't live nearby you need to bike or drive your car. West Main doesn't have a lot of car parking and the Saranac and the Community building currently have no public bike parking--hopefully the co-op will fix that. ) Thank you Merlyn's for the block's only bike rack!).

I'm not sure that the co-op will avoid all these problems by being 'destination' retail. The Spokane Farmer's Market, which is a great organization with great farmers and customers, actually has some big issues facing them right now--the biggest being they will lose their current location after this year. The location they are in now has worked well, but I know they have lost customers and farmers because they haven't had room to expand. It's also not the greatest location to get to traveling on bike, and the lack of permanent structures means there is no selling out of season.

Jim

My comments related to "students and low income types" was purely tongue in cheek - no disrespect intended. I think perishability and parking stress are excuses to fail, not real obstacles though. Remember around here most destinations are no longer than 15 minutes away. I could ride my bike from Logan district in less time, and I am looking forward to shopping at the co-op. I know that work is in progress to find a home for the farmers market(s). There are a lot of opposing interests at play in this process. WIth the growing interest in local and organic produce hopefully we can find a permanent home for this. It is a processs that requires a lot of give and take and creativity. The Bellingham farmer's market has a permanent almost year round location. Locals over there rejected an early design provided by a Seattle firm, found the metal superstructure of the old Skagit River Bridge in Mt. Vernon and convereted it to the new roof for the indoor portion of their market. The City there also gave them a sweet lease on their property to make it a go. It is something we should get off the ground here.

Kate

I think I have to agree with everyone's comments about the co-op. On the one side, it's a fantastic idea. On the other side, it does seem to be a difficult location. I hope they do enough outreach and marketing in order to become the "destination" they could be.

Another interesting option for the co-op could be grocery deliveries. My roommates and I don't live near anyplace you can regularly get regionally grown, organic produce, so we've subscribed to a biweekly vegetable box. It's great quality, seasonal food, and you even get recipes with the box, which is very helpful and helps you widen your cooking repretoire.

The delivery service is organized by farmers in the Hamburg region and to hear them tell it, they make a bundle on it. And it's really not that expensive to get, either.

Jim

Kate - great comments. I take it you are in Germany. For a moment I was trying to imagine Hamburg..Idaho? Such deliveries are available in most large urban areas now. Perhaps a good business idea here. At one time you could order from the Pike Market in Seattle - a weeks worth of seasonal produce delivered to your home or at work. I still like the idea of shopping, seeing all of the freah produce and mingling with others. For those commited to "slow food", most are willing to travel to the source. I don't think marketing is essential, just fresh quality food.

Contrarian

I suspect Kate is right about grocery deliveries. That certainly seems to be an unmet need in the marketplace. If the co-op offered that service its downtown location would be an advantage, and parking would not be an issue.

Rick

Great conversation. I agree with the concerns about parking. I work in the Community Building and know that on-street parking is extremely limited and even the pay parking can often be full. Moreover, without a parking lot, people will likely be buying one or two bags of food rather than the weekly family shopping.

The good news is Jennifer, who is leading the effort, has a great vision for this place and am sure that she has thought through the parking issue.

I for one am excited to see it come and am excited to see a place where affordable local and organic food is available!

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