FAQ

A cooperative is a group of people who work together for economic benefit. Food Shed Co-op will be a full service grocery store voluntarily owned and controlled by those our Owners, who have purchased equity shares in the co-op; Co-ops are democratically governed; Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations; Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.

In December, 2020, the Food Shed Co-op purchased the new home for its grocery store. The property is located on the corner of RT 14 and E Lake Shore Drive in Woodstock. An 8000 sq ft building is planned for the property with approximately 6500 sq ft of retail space.

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1. Market Study Data: The Food Shed Co-op was awarded a USDA grant which we used to fund a market study in late 2014 and has been periodically updated over time based on specific locations. Experts in the field of cooperative and natural foods grocery stores have conducted thorough studies to pinpoint the ideal locations, estimate sales volume, and recommended square footage for the store based on the demographic characteristics of the area and the existing competitive environment.

2. Financial Pro Forma: The financial impact of the location decision will effect the cooperative's finances for many years, therefor finances weigh heavily in the selection criteria. All of the factors examined in the market study inform the financial feasibility of our cooperative. Financial modeling will be further influenced by market dynamics, local government incentives, grants and many other expenses. Leveraging expert consultants, we continue to use the pro forma to guide our project to open the store.

3. Owner Input: We conducted a series of surveys with owners to collect information about what store location characteristics will best serve our owners.

The opening of the store was dependent on the GROW, FUND, BUILD program. In late 2021, the co-op had completed both the GROW and FUND stages of the program. The board voted to continue to the BUILD stage in December, 2021.

Since that time, architectural firm DDCA in Prairie Grove has been selected to create working blueprints. Blueprints have been made available to several area construction firms and bids are expected back in mid to late July. The opening date of the grocery store is scheduled for the Summer of 2023. The date may be impacted by material shortages or construction delays...

The reasons for the length of time it takes to open a cooperative grocery store are many:

  • The time required to generate interest and create a critical mass of owner-members sufficient to build and open a store like the Food Shed Co-op is significant;
  • The Food Shed Co-op is not a small project but rather a $4.3 MM full service, community-owned grocery store;
  • It normally takes most communities about 8-10 years to open a store like the Food Shed Co-op so we are right on schedule;
  • The co-op board prides itself in transparency and our owner-members have full access to the finances of their Food Shed Co-op business. The board of directors proactively shares financial information at our annual owner business meeting and at other times when appropriate. Any owner-member can get financial information throughout the year upon request or by attending our monthly board meetings;
  • Doing the math, 1500 members x $200 each (typical buy-in amount) = $300,000 which is far short of the amount required to build a $4.3 MM store. The approximately $300,000 collected to date from owners purchasing equity shares is being used to cover start up expenses. This includes everything from down payment for land purchases, site development work, rezoning and annexation fees, property taxes, employee salaries, marketing, administration, architectural fees, consulting fees and more;
  • Building a grocery store, even when done by giant corporations, requires years of planning and due diligence before a store appears. When well funded giant corporations do this we don’t see all that goes on until a shovel is put into the ground. Our project by contrast is happening with the sweat equity of many dedicated volunteers working who have worked thousands of hours to plan the store and raise the funds necessary to make this a project of the community, by the community and for the community. If we had armies of staff and a large corporate bank account we would have no doubt built our store a few years ago. We don’t have either nor do we want either as that would be missing the point.

The Food Shed Co-op was incorporated in 2014, however, the clock in many ways started ticking on December 11, 2020 when we announced the purchase of land at the intersection of US HWY 14 and Lake Shore Drive in Woodstock just north of McHenry County College. There was slow growth after our inception in 2014 until we announced the store site at the end of 2020. At that moment, owner-member growth accelerated and is now double what it was less than 2 years ago, i.e., from about 700 to just under 1500 owner-members. This growth brought the critical mass of community economic participation that allowed the co-op board to move to the next steps.

These steps included: capital campaign in 2021 which generated $1.7 million in 4 months through the sale of dividend bearing Preferred Shares and interest bearing Owner Loans. The Food Shed Co-op broke records in McHenry County for the shortest amount of time to raise this much money. This money currently resides in escrow at a local bank waiting for the board to release these funds when store construction begins. In late 2021, the board interviewed general manager candidates from across the US and ultimately hired Mr. Peter Waldmann. Waldmann moved to McHenry County from Seattle in March, 2022. The co-op is working with local banks to secure the remaining necessary funds to build a $4.3 MM community-owned grocery store.

The Food Shed Co-op has received several grants along the way, including the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) grant for $200,000 from the USDA announced in June, 2022. This was an indication that the USDA believes in this project. Every dollar the co-op can raise through grants or owner investment(s) is one dollar less that the co-op must borrow from banks at higher interest rates.

Cooperatives are owned by members of the community they serve and governed democratically. They have a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. The chart below illustrates how co-ops differ from conventional grocers.

Food Shed Co-op is a community owned grocery store. Like a buying club, you will be able to buy what you want at the cooperative, but there will be no strict pick-up times and you will not need to buy in bulk. Owners and non-Owners will be welcome to shop at Food Shed.

Anything the owners want and will support. Your choices will not be dictated by corporate management that are not living in your community and only focused on profit. Typically, co-ops stock a lot of local, natural, organic and bulk foods and also offer natural hygiene products (like soap and shampoo).

Not necessarily. Co-ops usually have a lower overhead than most grocery stores and offer the capacity to buy in bulk, which can actually lead to lower prices. Some organic or other specialty foods are inherently more expensive, but owners can choose to stock and offer lower cost options as well. Co-ops strive to build community and as such are not always the lowest cost available compared to low cost chain stores which are often damaging to communities and ultimately have a higher cost to local communities.

No! Everyone is welcome to shop at the co-op! Owners will receive the added benefits of patronage dividends and the right to get a vote in affairs of the cooperative. The co-op Board (which will be made up of and elected by Owners) will decide, as the co-op matures, what the differences and benefits will be regarding Owners and non-Owners. It is likely that, in addition to patronage dividends, Owners will be eligible for special offers and discount.

We can’t move ahead without commitment from our owners. We need you to join BEFORE we open our community-owned grocery store.

Our founding owners share the vision and have and demonstrated faith and confidence in our community’s ability to make this happen. Even without an actual store where you can shop (yet!), founding owners are willing to make a tangible investment in bringing this valuable asset to our community, and we thank you for that. To recognize the important role our founding owners play in the development of the Food Shed Co-op, their names will be forever noted on a plaque in the store.

Any adult (18 years and older) that resides in Illinois or Wisconsin! Ownership can be used by any adult in your household. However, multiple Owners within one household are permitted and encouraged. Each individual adult Owner gets one vote. Please see our Ownership Page for more information.

  • You get a “Vote” in the affairs of the Cooperative, including elections of Owners to the Board of Directors
  • You can run for the Board
  • You will receive patronage dividends based on your purchases

The votes of our Owners will set the direction for Food Shed Co-op far into the future: our values, our goals, Owner benefits, and the products, programs, and services that will be offered. So even though the store isn't open YET, today’s Owners will be making key decisions — you want to be part of that!

Ownership stock purchases will be used as start up capital and later to fund store operations and improvements. Cooperatives are funded by their Owners' stock purchases, Owner loans and potentially traditional bank loans. Once the store opens and is successful, Owners who no longer want to be Owners will have the opportunity, at the Board's discretion and per the bylaws, to sell back shares, less a small administrative fee.

Yes! If you would like to become an Owner at the Founding Owner level we do have a payment plan option. It is an initial payment of $21 followed by 9 $21 monthly payments. The payments can be processed via our BECOME-AN-OWNER page and all payments will automatically be credited towards your ownership. Complete Ownership information as well as all options for payment are detailed here.

At the Food Shed Co-op we believe that everyone deserves access to healthy, high quality food and products. To that end we have created a Financial Assistance Fund that is available to qualified applicants.

If you are in a position to need financial assistance, please fill out the Online Form or email us at [email protected]

No! Ownership is a one-time purchase. You are an Owner for life! There are no yearly dues or fees. You always have the option to buy more Ownership shares up to the maximum, which is ten shares.

No. Modern food co-ops operate as regular businesses with paid employees. There are opportunities - now and prior to the store opening - to volunteer assisting with various tasks, but this is not required. Becoming an Owner helps us build capital - the most important step!

That is not determined yet but other regional co-ops can provide a template for what you can expect. Here are some examples:

Willy Street Coop in Madison WI (https://www.willystreet.coop/ownership/ownership#benefits-of-becoming-an-owner)

Dill Pickle in Chicago (http://dillpickle.coop/ownership/)

Currently the vision and mission is to offer significantly more organic, natural, clearly labeled, local food choices far beyond typical grocery stores. The Owners will help to determine the products sold via purchases, feedback to the General Manager and voting power to elect the Board of Directors.

What about tropical fruits for example?

The intention is to source as many food products as locally as possible yet still provide a full selection of food comparable to a full service grocery store. Products, farmers and distributors will be selected as ethically as possible to fulfill the requirements from the owners. Ultimately all the products will be decided via feedback and purchasing power from the Owners.

The Food Shed Co-op offers healthy food choices and the benefits of cooperation to grow a vibrant local community and more eco-friendly world. We collaborate with local farmers and suppliers to enable healthy choices by bringing sustainable products, services and education to our community.

Yes! There are many co-ops in IL. Some are open for business and many are organizing (just like we are).

The National Cooperative Grocers lists IL based cooperatives here.

To find both existing and startup grocery cooperatives in IL (or around the country) click here.