Food Co-op needs $80,000 from local investors to expand

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The Muskoka North Good Food Co-op is closer then ever to realizing their dream of operating a grocery retail market complete with a commercial production kitchen/community cannery, café and seating area.

According to the investment package prepared by the Co-op, the project would involve developing a 3000 square-foot commercial space in Huntsville’s west end, in the building known as The HUB. The space would accommodate the three market segments or grocery, commercial production and café, along with restrooms, and an outdoor green space. The proposed building is large enough for future expansion for a bay loading dock and future larger store space. The HUB, the prospectus says, lends itself to community business and social enterprise development with the Co-op acting as a co-anchor tenant. See the full Investment package here (PDF).

The Co-op is presently waiting for an approval from FedNor for about $399,000. Other funding applications are conditional on the FedNor funds. If everything falls into place it will then be up to the Co-op to raise an additional $80,000 in the community to support the grant application. That is the process they are putting in place now.

“We need your investment now in order to access this money,” said Kelli Ebbs, general manager with Muskoka North Good Food Co-op.

The non-profit organization is looking to raise the $80,000 through community bonds. Ebbs learned about community bonds through the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), out of Toronto, and the Co-op developed their own bonds around their project.

“We took ideas and inspiration from the CSI model but we made our own. We made it really beautifully, in a way that we are able to answer any questions future investors or potential investors have about their investment,” said Ebbs. “We want the rate of return to be something that will be incentive for people to invest.”

The bonds are available in $1,000 increments, in either three, five or 10-year terms with an interest rate of three, four or six per cent respectively.

The longer you keep your investment in the Co-op, the higher the rate of return is in the end. That’s a pretty good investment rating when you’re looking at other investments out there. People are always asking how secure they are and I always ask, ‘How secure is any investment?’ The thing is, these are investments that you’re only going to make successful if you use the service. You’re in control as an investor with how successful you want this business to be because if you don’t do your shopping at the co-op after you’ve invested, who are you to blame except yourself?
Kelli Ebbs, general manager, Muskoka North Good Food Co-op

Ebbs said some investors who made pledges to invest are coming forward now that it’s time to get moving. She’s optimistic the Co-op will receive the $80,000 in investments by the end of an information meeting being held tonight (see details below) or at least come close to it. If not, she and other members of the board will be working over the next couple of weeks to secure the needed investments.

Ebbs and other board members will be purchasing some of the community bonds, as they believe in this project.

Over the past four or five months we have put over $120,000 back into the hands of local producers through sales in our store. That’s pretty profound when you think we’re just a small store right now. We’re going to grow a lot bigger and better and these grants are what’s going to get us there.
Kelli Ebbs, general manager, Muskoka North Good Food Co-op

“The FedNor application is about building capacity in our local food economy or building a local food economy. We have a small food economy that’s rolling along here. But most producers can only market themselves for three or four months. This gives them the ability to market their food 12 months of the year – it lets us market it for them so they have time to do what they do best, grow food and raise food.”

The funds raised will go toward capital equipment and leasehold improvements.

“The $80,000 will be to open our doors to its full capacity. Our architects and site project managers have been working extensively to produce the most wonderful plan for this space,” said Ebbs. “It’s going to look really different than what you see now and we’re excited about that. We’re going to be a destination space.

“We’re owned and run by our members and our members are our investors so you can’t lose if you’re using the service. It’s a pretty interesting, innovative model that works and keeps your investment in your community. It will be interesting to see how the meeting goes.”

The co-op would also like to see their membership at 800 members before opening. Currently they have just over 650. However, Ebbs emphasized that you don’t need to be a member to shop at the Co-op.

An information meeting is being held tonight, October 24 at 6:00 p.m. at the Co-op, 1 Crescent Road, Huntsville.

For more information on the investments or becoming a member contact Ebbs at 705-380-1017 or Craig Nakamoto at 705-571-5658 or email [email protected]

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