As you know, BriarPatch leaders are considering how to manage the growth in business that we’ve experienced in the past few years.
In April the Board produced a Development Report to present the details on the work that the Board, staff, and consultants have done so far, and asked for your input on the options it laid out for our future. Many thanks for your extremely constructive input, in the survey and elsewhere.
We reported some of the survey results in the June/July issue of The Vine and have posted the full results — all 68 pages of them — as well as a compilation of 100 comments online at www.briarpatch.coop/our-next-steps.
This article addresses the major points that people raised in the survey and elsewhere, and explains what we’re doing to address them.
As you’ll see – we have yet to decide upon any one option. Many factors remain in flux, so this process is going to continue for a while longer. Keep reading The Vine for updates. The status will also be presented at the annual Owner Meeting on October 2 at Miners Foundry.
Here are responses to some of the issues raised most frequently.
People really like the Sierra College Drive store and don’t want to move. At the same time, people recognize that growth has led to challenges that need to be addressed.
There appears to be agreement among all concerned that we love our current store. Remaining at Sierra College Drive for the long-term, while making modifications to accommodate more business, is still very much an option.
Regardless of what we might do in the future, we have to improve our current store for the short-term. We’re not going anywhere for several years, so we need to continue to implement improvements to maintain the best possible shopping experience, as well as the best possible working conditions for staff. We’ve already done a study of the parking situation, and since our outreach efforts in April, we’ve been re-examining our facilities improvement plan. This involves working with staff on the addition of new efficiencies and space modifications for to allow for both safe and efficient shopping and working.
Would moving from Sierra College Drive mean losing our valuable relationships with people associated with neighboring businesses and schools? How would this affect us?
We’re well aware of the value of these relationships, and we deeply appreciate our loyal customers. Any new site would have to be convenient for as many owners and shoppers as possible, including, of course, those “near and dear” to us now. This is of prime importance when we look at other sites.
Would we lose the soul of the place if we were to move or expand?
We’re lucky to be able to learn from other co-ops throughout the country who have faced this same question. There’s a great legacy of experience from which to learn, and that includes both failures and successes. From both personal visits and conversations we’ve heard this unanimous message, “your soul goes with you.” This is actually a message we’ve already learned in our own past. After all, didn’t we find that our larger location expanded not just the store’s size, but also the breadth of community served by the Patch? One reason for this is that we look at everything we do through the lens of our Ends Policies, which define our guiding goals and principles. You can be sure that whichever option is chosen, it will fulfill these goals, and will be designed to ensure that our co-op spirit travels with us.
Are our growth projections accurate?
It’s always difficult to predict the future, let alone definitively claim that our present growth will continue. (So far for 2014, our sales have grown 12.6 percent over the same period in 2013.) In all our models and studies, we’ve tried to be very conservative about assumptions concerning future growth. Since reading your comments, we’ve asked our market study experts to hone in on some specific related issues. Because we share your concerns, we have commissioned a second opinion from a different market study expert. We take this question about future growth very seriously.
Can BriarPatch afford any of the options listed in the report?
Just as with the initial market study, we’re revisiting our financial projections. We’re refining our cost analyses for all the options — in terms of their total cost, total debt, and short- and long-term cash flow, to make sure that any option we choose is financially sound. Our research suggests that through a combination of financing sources we could raise the funds needed for the options discussed.
Many people are opposed to BriarPatch considering a move to the proposed Dorsey development, while others are all for it.
We still face many hurdles regarding the possibility of a Dorsey Drive development. The Board is continuing to evaluate this option and whether it would be consistent with our Ends Policies. Other important considerations include the store design, other tenants, growth projections, and issues of timing. It will likely take at least a year before a decision can be made on this option. As we pursue this possibility, we’re also exploring other options and keeping them open.
Many expressed interest in a second store.
We’ve received many helpful suggestions for possible sites to consider for a second store, including smaller stores in Nevada City or South County.
With the help of a commercial real estate expert, we’ve looked at more than 30 sites. After reading your comments we revisited some of these, and also checked out some new ones. Some of the newly suggested sites are simply not available. Others are not suitable for our needs or are too expensive to develop. We’re continuing to look, and we continue to appreciate your suggestions.
We also received numerous suggestions for what a second store might entail – everything from a specialty-oriented, small-scale store to an even bigger version of our Sierra College Drive store. Others suggested we open a separate deli/kitchen/restaurant. These ideas have alerted us to various new possibilities that we’re looking into. In any event, we have not yet found an ideal site for any of these uses.
Why do we need to grow at all? Are you taking it for granted that growth is good?
The growth of sales and activity at BriarPatch is a fact, as is the limited capacity of our current store. Our leadership is responding to the fact that people like what we’re doing, and that there is a growing local and national interest in healthy food, community-oriented markets, local businesses, and the co-op movement as well. If we do nothing about warehouse conditions, congestion in the Deli and the parking lot, and a host of other factors that we listed in our Development Report, our already strained store operations could become unsafe and unsatisfactory to all. People may well choose to shop elsewhere. Neither our owners, staff, or the community at large want to see that. We are continually questioning our assumptions, and are highly sensitive to the downside of growth. Our over-arching goal is to make sure that what we do is best for our owners, our staff, and our community, with a current as well as a long-range perspective.
We will continue to keep you informed about our progress, and again — we have not made a final decision. A number of key variables are still months away from being resolved. We will update you on new developments as they occur, both in The Vine, online at www.briarpatch.coop, and at the annual Owner Meeting and banquet on October 2.
Keep those suggestions and comments coming!