Abundance Coop

Rose O'Keefe SWQ Autumn 2016

About five years ago, members of Abundance Food Co-op on Marshall Street began the search for a larger and more accessible space where they could improve their offerings as a grocery store and cooperative. After a long, hard search they found the right fit at 571 South Ave. This solid building at the northwest corner of South and Averill avenues was once part of the renovation of the South Wedge in the 1980s as the home of Sentry Color Lab. The food store will have 7,500 square feet of retail space, with 5,000 square feet for warehouse, administrative, and community use. (Full disclosure, my husband and I have been Co-op shareholders for a while.) This interview took place in early August.

SWQ: How’d it go with the Planning Commission in July?
JD: The Planning Commission did not approve our plan for 42 parking spaces and told us that we needed to redesign which reduced our parking to 38 spaces. We actually see this as a positive because we’ll have a lovely green space on the corner of South Avenue and Hamilton Street. We’re considering different ideas for this area, including an edible garden and a space for outdoor events.

What remains to be done in order to make the move?
We are finalizing all the design work and mechanical design now. We will also be receiving bids for the work starting in a few days.

How’s the latest fund raising going?
We have raised more loan funds from our owners than we set out to get. However, we are still able to borrow from 15 more people and be within the 40-person limit. I invite anyone interested in discussing the owner loan program further to contact me. We are also awaiting the final review for the bank loan from Five Star Bank for additional funds beyond what they have already approved.

Expected timeline for construction and opening?
Once we have a construction firm contracted, work will begin and we can set a more firm timeline for opening. Our tentative time frame at this point is early November. Stay tuned!

Lessons learned?
Negotiating a lease is not easy. Working through the planning process with the City of Rochester is also not easy. There have been unpleasant surprises all along the way. If I were to start this project all over, I would hire an experienced real estate negotiator and plan for a much longer time frame to get approval from the city.

Anything else I should have asked?
We are negotiating with RocSpot for a solar array on the roof and if that falls though we will likely join the Community Solar group for most of our electricity needs. Along with our Board of Directors and ownership, I hope to make the store run as sustainably as possible given the infrastructure we are working with.