River Valley Co-op Explores Expansion
An Update on the Easthampton Store Project
August 30, 2018
In January we announced that we are exploring opening a second store and that we had secured an option to purchase the former Fedor Car Dealership property located at 228 Northampton Street in Easthampton. We’ve been working on our due diligence and planning over the spring and summer and have made a lot of good progress. We’ve received feedback on preliminary site plans and are currently working on revisions for a formal review and the permitting process.
Some of the steps we’ve completed include:
- Market Study
- Draft Financial Modeling
- Traffic Study
- Topographical Survey and Wetlands Delineation
- Soil Testing
- Draft Site Plans
- Exploration of Building Design/Materials Options
- Preliminary Construction Cost Estimates
- Started Store Design Process
- Hired a Project Manager
- Raised $2 million in phase 1 of our Co-op Owner Loan Campaign
We still have many steps to go before we can make a final decision, but so far so good. We will be planning for some presentations on draft plans for community feedback this fall. We hope to complete all our planning and financing for a decision to proceed with the purchase and sale by early 2019. We project construction will take about a year and our goal is to open by July of 2020.
River Valley Co-op is exploring Easthampton for a second store because:
- Easthampton is well located for a second store for the co-op. It is already within the co-op’s circle of customers and vendors and it will expand our circle further. The Northampton store is doing more than twice as much business as we had originally planned for and this Easthampton location is close enough to take a little pressure (but not too much) off our current store.
- Easthampton is a community that supports local businesses. There is a thriving network of like-minded local businesses in Easthampton that support and care about community building and working to shape the future to be in alignment with those values.
- Easthampton has a site available that appears to be able to meet our facility and operating needs. It is a challenge to find adequately sized real estate for grocery store operations in locations that would sustain an independent grocery business. River Valley Co-op has secured the exclusive option to purchase the former Fedor car dealership property on Northampton Road in Easthampton. We’re working through all our due diligence to determine if this is a feasible location for our second store before finalizing the decision to move forward with the purchase and sale for this project.
The Co-op’s goals for expanding in this location include:
- Improved access and service for Easthampton area co-op shoppers.
- Expand the co-op customer base.
- Expand co-op ownership to more people.
- Expanding local foods production with increased purchases from local farmers and food businesses.
- 100 new jobs with many advancement opportunities for our employees.
- Making the Northampton store less crowded while growing the cooperative overall for more employee and vendor opportunities.
- Utilizing energy efficiency and green technologies in the store design.
- Creating a welcoming community space and community events.
- Working to incorporate Captain Jack’s as potential part of the new development.
How can you get involved?
- Sign up for our email newsletter to follow our progress.
- Participate in store planning feedback sessions that will be upcoming this fall.
- Send questions, comments, and ideas to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Become a River Valley Co-op owner, or if you’re already an owner, encourage others to join.
River Valley Co-op Explores Potential Second Store Site in Easthampton
January 22, 2018
Andrea Stanley, River Valley Co-op Board President (617) 519-6950
Rochelle Prunty, River Valley Co-op General Manager (413) 341-5686
Natasha Latour, Marketing Manager (413) 341-5627
Mayor Nicole Lachapelle (413) 529-1470
(Easthampton, MA) River Valley Co-op has secured an option agreement for the potential purchase of the Easthampton property at 228 Northampton Street, (formerly the Fedor Automobile Dealership), as a second store location. River Valley Co-op is a cooperatively owned grocery store with one location in Northampton. Since 2014 the cooperative business has been discussing a second store location with co-op owners, customers, and employees in order to accommodate its growth as well as furthering the mission of building a strong local food system.
Andrea Stanley, Board President, reported, "We’ve been looking for a suitable location for a second store for several years to serve our community better. Our goal is to expand our community owned grocery business to further our local economic impact and build the resiliency of our local food system through year-round purchases to even more local farmers. We believe that Easthampton is an ideal match for River Valley Co-op. In fact, we have many co-op owners and vendors from Easthampton already, so we feel a strong connection to the community and look forward to expanding our working relationships even further with this project.”
The option agreement gives the co-op a year to conduct its due diligence, planning, and fundraising before exercising its exclusive right to purchase the property. River Valley Co-op’s leadership team met Friday with Easthampton Mayor Nicolle LaChapelle to discuss the dynamics of the plan. Mayor LaChappelle commented, "River Valley Co-op is a natural fit for Easthampton residents as consumers and job-seekers. High-quality food and jobs is a combination that is hard to beat! I had the opportunity to sit down with the River Valley team last week. They conveyed deep understanding of Easthampton and shared their plans with thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. As the co-op is ready to grow, Easthampton is ready to support that growth to ensure success for everyone."
Owner of the property, longtime Easthampton businessperson Eddie Fedor said: “Our family is enthusiastic about the potential of River Valley Co-op expanding in Easthampton. This is a great location and will be very convenient for a lot of people. River Valley Co-op’s support of local farmers and other local vendors would make them a great addition to our community!”
“Growing our co-op community with an Easthampton location gives River Valley Co-op’s local producers an expanded market and supports opportunities for new vendors. We are looking to build a store of the same size but with a larger parking lot than the Northampton store. This location meets many of our site criteria very well. We know there are some traffic concerns and we look forward to working with the community to determine how to best alleviate them. Now that we’ve secured the site, engaging community members and our staff to develop our plans is our next priority.” Rochelle Prunty, General Manager.
The co-op expects the store will employ 100 people in its Easthampton store. Northampton store employees are over 95% full time with benefits and are represented by the UFCW Local 1459.
About River Valley Co-op
River Valley Co-op, located at 330 North King Street in Northampton, is a community-owned grocery store open to the public daily 8AM-10PM. Owned by over 9,500 area families, the co-op opened the store nearly 10 years ago with a mission to support local farmers and build a stronger local food system.
For more information please visit www.rivervalley.coop
Frequently Asked Questions
How would Captain Jack’s be impacted by a decision to open a second store at this location?
The co-op deeply supports local businesses and believes there could be very good synergies between Captain Jack’s and the co-op. Upon securing the option agreement on the property the co-op reached out to Captain Jack’s to express a desire and openness to working with them. We look forward to exploring the possibilities for working together over the coming year.
Why didn’t the co-op include Captain Jack’s in its announcement?
The announcement was about the option agreement and process for exploring the potential of a second store. It was not an announcement of a purchase with a plan for a second store. This was our first announcement about the proposal. There will be a time in the future to talk about other aspects of this project. We did not think it right to discuss conversations we've had or hope to have with neighbors.
The option provides security for the co-op to begin the process of exploring feasibility and planning options before deciding whether to exercise the option. The next steps include digging into details for site design and permitting. This includes beginning conversations with Captain Jack’s and others.
Why doesn’t the site plan show Captain Jack’s?
It is not a plan, it is a study sketch overlay we included to show the projected store size and parking scaled to the lot as a starting place for future plan development to give people an idea of the proportions of building, parking, loading docks for deliveries, etc. As the planning process proceeds over the coming 12-18 months (including discussions with Captain Jack’s) there will be many new working sketches that ultimately, we hope to develop into building plans.
Why did the co-op make this announcement so long before completing its plans and making a final decision?
Announcing the start of a process of exploring the feasibility of a second store and starting the planning process in such a transparent way is not the typical way business is done, but it is how the co-op does
We look forward to a positive and engaging iterative planning experience that results in building a co-op store in Easthampton that will be something the broader community has had a part in developing and that will support the community in building the future it wants for Easthampton.
How is an option agreement different from a purchase and sale agreement?
The option agreement provides the option to complete a purchase and sale agreement as outlined in the agreement for a specified period. This allows security for a prospective buyer to conduct due diligence, planning, and fundraising as needed before making the final purchase decision. Our agreement provides a year for this process with the potential for an added extension if needed.
What is the timeline?
If the co-op decides to go forward with the purchase and sale, we project the best case timeline is that we will break ground by Spring of 2019 and open for business by the Spring of 2020.
What size will the store be?
The preliminary plans call for a store of about the same size as our Northampton store: 11,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, plus additional space on the ground floor for prep and staff areas. The plans also include a "mezzanine" style second floor for offices, staff spaces, community meeting space.
Will the Easthampton location have a big enough parking lot?
We are planning for approximately 150 customer parking spaces (compared to 92 at our Northampton location). We are also planning for additional onsite staff parking.
How will the new store affect traffic?
We are aware of this concern. We will be conducting a traffic study and working with the city to determine how to best address traffic issues. A plan for alleviating traffic concerns will be a key part of the permitting process.
One of the goals of the second store planning is to alleviate some of the pressure on our Northampton location by finding a second location that would serve a significant number of our current customers more conveniently. Easthampton has hundreds of River Valley Co-op owners and is the ideal distance from our current store. A second location within 5-8 miles serves both existing customers and potential new customers. As the Co-op expands, we have a continued and growing ability to impact positive community changes. We acknowledge that there are unmet needs in the surrounding communities where we also have some current customers and we have an interest in continuing to look for property that’s the right fit for the co-op as we grow.
When will we have an opportunity to provide input?
We are planning for a series of open house events for sharing information, gathering ideas, and listening to your concerns and questions. Stay tuned for details.
How will we fund a new store?
Like our first store, our second store will be primarily funded with many individual interest-bearing loans from our co-op owners as well as bank funding.
What are the next steps?
We will be working with the city to determine what all the permitting requirements will be and that will include a traffic study. Concurrently we are having a market study completed that will help inform our financial modeling. We will also be gathering feedback and ideas, networking, and starting the site and store design process. We project six to nine months of design work to complete.
Whom are we working with on this project?
Wright Builders, Thomas Douglas Architects, Berkshire Design, NCG Development Co-op, and of course the City of Easthampton are our primary partners on this project so far.
What will happen to Captain Jacks?
They will remain for the upcoming season and we will be discussing potential scenarios with them as we proceed with our store planning process.
More Questions? Ask Ursula (our co-op bear) by emailing your questions to email@example.com.
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“The new store will be 4 minutes from my home and I plan to be there daily. This is fabulous and I am thrilled! I feel like getting a shovel so I can speed up the building process.”Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian
"We live in Easthampton and we are delighted to know that there will be a River Valley Co-op in town.We are regular co-op shoppers, and we will certainly make good use of the new store. We are very happy to see our local cooperative grow and serve a broader community." Dan Lemaire
"That is thrilling news. Just yesterday, I was wishing there was a source for more local, natural foods nearer to me in Easthampton. This will be a boon to our community, as more grocery options will mean more positive impact in all of Easthampton, and more for our local farmers." Audrey Hyvonen
"River Valley Co-op in Easthampton!?!?!?!Hearing about a new location for my favorite grocery here in Easthampton is one of the most exciting things I've heard in years!With so many local businesses sprouting up in Easthampton, support for local businesses like the co-op and it's local vendors is growing stronger than ever! Another location could make finding heathy local and organic food in our community more convenient than ever!" Sam Dibble New City Brewery