State of the Co-op—Remodel
Wowee, the scope of the project has grown! In the last two issues of the newsletter, I reported just that—the scope of the project has grown. The scope has grown due to several factors; for one, remaining open throughout construction is more costly than working in an unoccupied space; the site is nestled between existing residential and commercial property making staging materials and equipment complicated; and close examination of the existing foundation has revealed a structural deficiency that requires reinforcement. Additionally, LEED certification adds significant expense.
To explain some of the challenges—one essential reason to remodel Willy East was to expand packaged (dry) storage and walk-in cooler and freezer space to increase holding capacity to improve product availability (decreasing out-of-stocks). Another reason to remodel was to create more office and meeting space for staff. One solution to address both needs was to build a second story over the existing receiving area. However, the existing structure requires sounder footings than what is currently there to support the additional second-story build-out intended for office and meeting space. We are considering only expanding the footprint of the receiving area, and not building a second story as an option to minimize the cost of the project. However, not shoring up the foundation now prevents any future second-story work happening without that work being completed.
Doing more and spending more now may have its merit—upgrading the current facility beyond a minor remodel will support future needs and continued success in this location. The Co-op has continued to grow at this location, even when Willy West opened; therefore I see every reason to believe we will continue to experience sales growth for years to come.
To help me evaluate our best next step(s), I have selected an ad hoc committee comprised of Board and Finance Committee members, staff, and Owners-at-large to examine a plethora of data and discuss a multitude of options that lay before us—remodel East (and to what extent), open a third retail full-line grocery site, open a warehouse, buy farmland…We plan to do a remodel on Willy East, but to what extent remains an unknown for the moment. We need to fully understand the actual costs involved in the project that we have designed; our construction partners are refining the initial project estimate to a real cost estimate.
I have prepared myself, based on the current information I have on the project, to make a recommendation to the Board to request from Owners the approval of additional funds for the expansion at Willy East, as well as a solid plan for next steps after the remodel. Stay tuned for 1221 remodel updates in the next issue of the newsletter.
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Moving on to different pastures…
After 11 years as the Cooperative Services Manager, Lynn Olson has accepted a position at the Wisconsin Food Hub Co-op. Her last day at this Co-op was at the end of March—her new job started April 1st (no joke). Best of luck, Lynn, in your pursuit of new endeavors.