Faced with an expected cash shortfall this year, Whitehorse’s Potluck Food Co-op will decide in the next few months whether to stay open.
The co-op, which opened in November 2013 to offer organic, fresh and locally grown produce, lost more than $35,000 during its first year, and is so far expecting a $5,000 loss for this year.
“In the second year of a business it’s not at all abnormal, and we are doing so incredibly better than last year,” said Roslyn Woodcock, who sits on the co-op board of directors.
On top of these difficulties, there’s also a new player in town expected to open soon, Farmer Robert’s, which is expected to deliver similar products: organic and locally grown food.
The co-op doesn’t have a problem with Farmer Robert’s opening up, Woodcock said. “People think we’re going to be upset because it’s competition,” she said. “But our whole point is to expand the local market.”
At the co-op annual general meeting held on June 24, members were presented with four options: keeping the co-op running as it is, expanding it, shutting it down, or striking a partnership with Farmer Robert’s.
“The fact there’s going to be an amazing location for local farmers to sell their produce is nothing but good for us, that means we can focus on different things,” Woodcock said.
In his financial report presented at the meeting, co-op treasurer Peter Woodruff pointed out the co-op couldn’t afford to repeat the losses incurred in its first year.
“A few insufficient orders could force (the) store to close,” he wrote.
The co-op expected some losses in the first year, Woodcock said, and only opened after four years of gathering enough capital.
One possibility being floated is that the co-op form some sort of partnership with Farmer Robert’s. Another possible scheme could see the co-op close, with its leftover capital used to provide low-interest loans to local farmers, she said.
The co-op’s biggest expense comes from the staff who operate the physical store – customers place their orders online.
The goal of 40 to 60 orders every two weeks isn’t met, Woodcock said, and combined with the tight margins, it isn’t enough to break even with the salary costs.
The Potluck Food Co-op currently has 252 members. Memberships cost $250, a one-time fee that gives a vote for decisions related to the co-op, which is owned by its members.
No matter what happens, the co-op will still work to bring local food to the local market, she said.
“Even if our store shuts, we will continue doing whatever helps the local agricultural industry.”
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