New Leaf Market Hosts Expansion Workshop
By Dave Watson
In early April, nine co-op general managers and members of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) visited New Leaf Market to see and learn about the recently completed expansion. One of the visitors was Development Director for the Eastern United States Corridor of the NCGA, Peg Nolan.
Peg describes the NCGA as “a cooperative of cooperatives.” She believes that the NCGA allows participating co-ops to “Gain the benefit of being a chain without being a chain.” The NCGA provides food co-ops with lower pricing and buyer sourcing assistance through contract purchasing. “We create influences to help our members accomplish what they want to accomplish,” Peg explained.
This includes representing food co-ops on national issues as well as helping co-ops market themselves for better consumer recognition and facilitating opportunities to learn from other co-ops.
All total there are some 300-350 food co-ops in the United States. A “new crop of start-ups” will surface again this year. For Peg Nolan, this supports the “30 year cycle” theory. “We are shifting from a ‘me’ cycle to a ‘we’ cycle. The combination of hard economic times and disenfranchisement with our political system is the perfect storm for food co-op growth.”
The meeting held from April 1-3 at NLM was an information exchange among the visiting co-ops, our store and the NCGA staff. “New Leaf Market just completed an incredible expansion project,” praised Peg. “The design and execution was excellent. At the end of the expansion, New Leaf Market came in under budget, the customers are happy, and the staff is responsive. The store aisles and products are well organized. New Leaf Market is a leader, and we at NCGA and these other co-ops are here to learn from them.”
There was also the opportunity for New Leaf Market to gain ideas. Peg clarified, “For NLM, we provide fresh eyes on how do you ride the next big wave. Here is a successful store and NLM is already asking, where are our next successes? As well as the big picture, we can provide ideas on cost cutting and improvements.”
Here is a brief look at those in attendance for the workshop:
Anne Hopkins is the general manager of Good Foods Co-op in Lexington, Kentucky. Good Foods will soon begin an expansion very similar to our own. Anne is particularly interested in learning about the phased construction.
John Russo is the general manager of Ever’man Natural Foods in Pensacola, Florida, our closest neighboring co-op. NLM has collaborated with John many times over the years. Ever’man has currently made a purchase offer on the building they occupy, but also have a plan on the table to open a second store.
David Fowle, with 25 years of general manager experience, brings new ideas to the NCGA staff now including regular store merchandising audits. He sees NLM as a benchmark for future expansions by other stores.
Steve Cooke, general manager at Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Atlanta, Georgia, has just finished a store reset and received a boost in sales and enhanced traffic flow as a result. “The bar has been raised here,” Steve offered. “Food co-ops are not always bright and shiny but instead can be rather homey.”
Cindee Lolik from Albany, New York oversees operations and administration for the Honest Weight Food Co-op. They have a new store and already see crowded aisles. They will own the building they plan on constructing in early summer of next year.
Scott Cooper is the general manager of Rising Tide Community Market in Damariscotta, Maine. They bought their building last year and are currently under construction to double their size to 9,000 square feet—about the size of NLM before our expansion.
Chris Ryding, NCGA perishables manager, performed an operational audit on our deli’s day-to-day practices.
Rob Martin, from Seattle, Washington, consults with co-ops on operational mechanics. He performed an audit of our invoice flow and cash-handling procedures.