Community offered a business opportunity

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By Kirsten Laskey

In the ‘80s, the search for the new business paradigm shift was going full steam. Businesses yearned to find new and better work models that would reap the most awards. Today, a paradigm shift of sorts is arriving in Los Alamos. The community is being introduced to a type of business that while not new, it is certainly unique in Los Alamos.  

This business comes in the form of a co-op grocery market and everyone in the community can learn more about it during a gala, which will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn Express located in the new Entrada Park.  

The Los Alamos Co-op Market, will be presented during the event, which will include wine, hors d’oeuvres as well as a reading of the play, “Plots,” by local playwright Robert Benjamin. The performance will star Jody Shepard and Larry Gibbons. Additionally, guitarist Greg Schneider will perform classical music.

Next year, the co-op grocery store is expected to open its doors in Entrada Park. Karen Kendall, vice president of the co-op, explained that the store will be a natural food grocery. There will be locally grown, organic foods, traditional health foods, deli and butcher counters.

She said shoppers will spot a lot of goods seen at the Los Alamos Farmers Market.

Besides the store, the co-op is offering memberships.

Rick Reiss and Sam Gardener of Main Gate, which is building the Entrada Park, and C.E. Pugh, the director of the National Cooperation Association will discuss the co-op memberships during the gala. Currently, Kendall said, there are 400 members in the co-op. The fees for memberships range from a lifetime membership for $250 to a one-year charter membership for $30.

Becoming a member offers several benefits. For one, Kendall said, it allows people to be involved in their community. “It’s a choice, a lifestyle and dedication to have good quality food in the community.”

Plus, members are also treated to discounts. The store is not exclusive to members. Anyone will be able shop at the Los Alamos Co-op Market.

To earn revenue for the co-op, she explained, will be done through a membership loan program.

Members invest in the co-op; the minimum contribution is $1,000. For the first four years, Kendall said, the co-op will not make payments on these loans but interest compounds annually.

During years five through 10, the co-op will make payments of interest and principal, she said.

According to national co-op statistics, the local co-op will have a negative cash flow for the first few years; however, through the market’s revenue members’ loans will be paid back.

Those who have an interest in making an investment will be given a legal document prepared by the co-op’s lawyer to see the legal terms of the investment, Kendall said.

Additionally, people who are interested in making an investment will be contacted. A campaign is underway to raise money for the grocery store. Between now and Feb. 15, the goal is raise $1.3 million. Kendall said they already have a number of pledges. “So we are on our way,” she said.  The money from the campaign will be used to stock the store and hire a store manager.  

It’s taken a lot of time and effort to reach this point. Finding a location has been a particular challenge with several sites falling through.

Therefore, Kendall said she is responding to the recent developments with caution.

“I’m cautiously excited,” she said.

Nonetheless, co-op President Nancy Savoia credits the “persistence and support from our community … that wants this store here. We’ve had this great membership that just stood by us.”

There have been a few questions regarding the store, however. The biggest question, Kendall said, is why isn’t the store located in the downtown area? The answer, she explained, is that the co-op board spent more than three years getting a business plan, market study and legal paperwork completed. They also worked with just about every location in the downtown area and were unsuccessful with securing a location.

“We had a talk with Sam and Rick about Entrada earlier and the benefit of the location at Entrada – it would not only serve people who live on the Hill, it’s easy access for people living in White Rock, Española and San Ildefonso,” Kendall said. Plus, the market would also receive traffic coming to and from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“We feel it’s a very exciting location,” Kendall said.

Another frequently asked question is if there is enough of a market to support two grocery stores.

Kendall emphasized, “We are really not trying to compete with Smith’s.”

The objective is to capture those who travel off the Hill to go to the Santa Fe co-op, La Montanita, as well as Sunshine Market and the Vitamin Cottage.

“There’s a great demand for that,” Savoia said.

The idea for the co-op market began when Savoia noticed an empty grocery store in town. She explained that she called La Montanita to see if the co-op was interested in expanding to Los Alamos. The Santa Fe co-op considered the idea but ultimately decided not to pursue it. However, if Los Alamos formed its own co-op board, then La Montanita said it would support the endeavor. As the co-op continues to develop, Kendall said “our goal with this is for the co-op to be a success but it’s owned by the community.” For more information, visit www.lacoopmarket.com.