No looking back for Juneau food co-op organizers
A group of Juneau residents continue to explore the possibility of starting a cooperative grocery store, despite last week’s announcement that Myers Group IGA will soon be anchor tenant in Foodland Shopping Center.
The Capital City Market Cooperative formed in a bid to take over the space, currently occupied by Alaskan & Proud. Organizers now say they’ll focus on other locations in a feasibility study.
It came as no surprise to Capital City Market organizer Evelyn Rousso that Myers Group and Foodland, Inc. had reached a deal for downtown Juneau’s only full service grocery store. And it doesn’t change the group’s plans to do a market study.
“It just takes one option off the table,” Rousso says. “The person who’s doing our study is looking at a variety of options, and replacing the A&P store was to be one of them and now it won’t be.”
Seattle area grocery consultant Hambleton Resources will conduct the study. The firm will look at Juneau’s demographics and existing grocery store options, then analyze whether a co-op would work in the Capital City. Rousso says possible locations will be just one aspect of the report.
“For the sake of the study we identified some specific intersections, but with the understanding that it’s not really that important to pinpoint a location,” she says. “It’s more for general areas. So, we’ll look in the Willoughby District downtown, Douglas, and potentially one out the road somewhere.”
Capital City Market has raised nearly $18,000 for the study through a founding member drive. If the report says a co-op is feasible, Rousso says the group would probably need to raise at least a couple million more to cover startup costs. By comparison, a group in Fairbanks that plans to open Alaska’s first food co-op this fall has raised nearly $1.5 million.
“It would attract people from all over the community. We are looking at doing something that would be organic and natural, but also have conventional. It would feature local products, especially local seafood. Our marketing study will tell us the mix that could work here.” – Evelyn Rousso, organizer Capital City Market Cooperative
The market study will determine whether to move forward. But Rousso says her personal feeling is that Juneau would welcome a grocery co-op.
“I think it’s a great business model for Juneau, and I think we could have one of the best stores in Juneau,” Rousso says. “It would attract people from all over the community. We are looking at doing something that would be organic and natural, but also have conventional. It would feature local products, especially local seafood. Our marketing study will tell us the mix that could work here.”
Rousso and other co-op organizers had preliminary talks with Foodland, Inc. President Gary Rosenberger about the Alaskan & Proud space. Rosenberger says he liked what he heard, but the Myers Group was able to move more quickly.
“It was a really good second option. Probably it might have been a good first option. But they needed a lot more time in order to get in there,” Rosenberger says. “Maybe we might have been dark for months before they could move in.”
Foodland and the Myers Group announced a 10-year lease agreement for the space on Friday. The Myers Group operates five IGA stores in western Washington.
The next step for the Capital City Market is a membership meeting on September 21st, where a board of directors will be elected from among the more than 40 founding members. Rousso expects the market study to be done in the next month or so.