Locations: 3 retail locations (another slated to open summer 2013), one commissary kitchen
Number of members: 10,000
Equity investment:$90 stock purchase
New retail opening 2013: 5,200 retail, 1,600 deli seating mezzanine
Bloomingfoods Market & Deli has a vision to resurrect the neighborhood grocer, the kind of place that used to exist before the advent of supermarkets where people could go to get fresh food, groceries, news, and see their neighbors. Much like the mom and pop store of yore, Bloomingfoods has a plan to establish green grocers around the city that people can walk or bike to, where the focus isn’t necessarily on stocking up on groceries, but picking up a few things for dinner. Theirs will be “perimeter-focused” stores that offer a wide selection of fresh foods including, produce, cheeses, a service meat counter and an extensive deli.
George Huntington, general manager of Bloomingfoods, noted that this approach really suits their market. Spurred on by the success of their Near West Side location, which is 7,000 square feet, Huntington believes that there’s a demand for good small-format stores that can serve the requirements of specific neighborhoods. “It’s a slightly different model to have smaller retail space,” Huntington said about the typical grocery store, but one that he said has grown out of needs in Bloomington’s neighborhoods.
Market studies confirmed this perspective. “We were really surprised by the strong outlook,” Huntington said. “We can grow market share by operating small neighborhood stores.” He said Bloomingfoods can take advantage of the opportunity to “go small” by having a large format store within their constellation of locations, in addition to a commissary kitchen that can supply smaller stores with prepared foods. This is how they’ve chosen to position themselves in their market and it’s paying off.
That’s because their co-op has focused on its core principles and strategically aligned themselves with what the Bloomington community wants and to serve them well through cooperation. “The decisions we make are to achieve our Ends. Our growth is not about maximizing a return on investment, but about goods and services,” Huntington said. “I recognize there has to be a balance, you have to be financially successful, but this is all about investing in our co-op and our community.” He also said that Bloomingfoods’ acceleration of locations and sales is “because of the good work we can do to fuel the local economic engine and have growth for the right reasons.”
The newest location is slated to be a convenient grocery hub for a confluence of three neighborhoods. The site is a former grocery store going back to 1913 that closed a few years ago. It had fallen into disrepair and has been blight on the neighborhood. The new co-op store will revitalize the area. Bloomingfoods is giving the community what they asked for: fresh coffee in a café gathering place, a deli and place nearby to buy basic foodstuffs. In addition to the seating area upstairs, the co-op is planning a wide front porch and constructing a plaza next door that will have seating and space for a farmers’ market.
“We are developing in ways that builds our brand and that makes us stronger,” Huntington said. He also said that the time for food co-ops to accelerate growth is now. The values of co-ops are resonating with people, not just about food, but about the co-op model. He thinks that people, especially elected officials and developers, now view Bloomingfoods as a business model that works as part of a solution to create more livable cities.
“We believe that our stores will enhance the quality of life in our town because people can walk or bike to them,” he said, “It’s a return to a better way to live.