ALTON – The Advisory Council of Grassroots Grocery says the cooperative grocery store will close its location at 415A Ridge St. when the lease expires on Dec. 31, 2017, or earlier.
Factors contributing to the decision include operating expenses exceeding sales and a continuing decline of customers frequenting the store. Additionally, new memberships and renewals have been decreasing, and the donor who promised to pay the store’s rent for three years has been unwilling to fulfill their pledge for the past two years. These variables indicate insufficient community support for the current incarnation of Grassroots Grocery.
“This decision was made with heavy hearts as Grassroots Grocery just reached its two-year anniversary in August,” said co-founder Christine Favilla, “Countless volunteer hours have been utilized to operate and manage the store, yet the current level of regular shoppers is not enough to cover overhead.” The store requires 200 shoppers to dedicate $100 of their monthly grocery budget to Grassroots in order to cover operating costs, but by the end of its second year the store was only seeing half of that volume of business.
Currently payments are in good standing with all local vendors, but the store has acquired a balance of approximately $14,000 with its largest supplier of dry products and bulk goods. Grassroots Grocery has just enough assets on hand to liquidate and pay off this balance, which the Advisory Council feels is the fiscally responsible thing to do at this time.
“This is definitely a setback to all of us who are trying to improve our community’s health and local food system,” said co-founder Sara McGibany, “Many physicians in the area have been referring their patients to the store for dietary suggestions, and I’ve heard from a number of people that having a co-op grocery in town was a factor in why they moved to Alton. A dozen other communities have sent representatives to meet with us for advice on how to start a similar model in their own towns. Unfortunately we just aren’t capable of holding out any longer waiting for enough shoppers to make Grassroots a part of their regular routine.”
Although the Advisory Council has voted to close this retail store, there are potential restructuring options available for the mission to continue. Through tax deductible donations, additional volunteer leadership, and continued shopping at the store through the end of the year, community members can influence the future of Grassroots Grocery. Based on public response, possibilities going forward include reopening in a new location, converting into a buying club to coordinate the purchases of select products in bulk, and/or opening the commercial kitchen at a different location. A significant community-driven influx of financial and human resources must occur if there is to be a future version of the store. Founders and existing Advisory Council members are there to guide any volunteers who are interested in getting involved in the restructuring.
Although the 800-square-foot store was small in size, it made a big impact on the lives of many people in our area, supporters said. More than 50 farmers and culinary entrepreneurs who have supplied the store with products from within a 50-mile radius; neighborhood kids who have received over 3,000 pieces of free fruit; members who have supported the store with annual dues and by shopping, six employees; and individuals and companies who believed in the mission enough to provide grants and gifts which the organization has put to good use.
Further details about plans for inventory reduction will be announced at www.GrassrootsGrocery.org and www.facebook.com/GrassrootsGrocery.
Any questions or offers for assistance, can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via private message on facebook.