Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Food Co-op?

A food co-op is a community owned grocery store that exists to serve its owners - and through its owners - its community. Food co-ops are typically formed in communities to address needs that owners feel aren’t being properly met, such as better supporting local farmers & producers, making organic food more available and affordable, and building a stronger local, cooperative economy. The food co-op allows owners to work collectively to meet this need, rather than individuals trying to accomplish it themselves.

In Minnesota, food co-ops are regulated under MN Statute 308A & 308BB, which lays out the legal requirements of how food co-ops are formed and operated. The food co-op is overseen by a democratically elected board of directors made up of co-op owners, elected by owners. This board is responsible for monitoring the operations, and meeting the mission and ends of the co-op on behalf of its owners. The co-op will also have paid staff like any other grocery store. This democratic approach to business results in a powerful economic force that benefits the co-op, its owners, and the community it serves.

How much does it cost, and why do I have to pay to become an owner?

Your ownership fee is considered an investment. And during development, your ownership is an investment in helping to build the co-op in the form of your support, as well as the funds you pay to join the co-op. When you become an owner, you are purchasing stock in the co-op. It costs $100 to become an owner, and that is broken down into four $25 increments. Your $25 class A stock is your voting share, and all owners are limited to one voting share. The remaining $75 is three additional Class B shares that all owners are required to purchase. This ensures ownership for the co-op, and that all owners have an equal number of voting shares.

What if I can’t pay the whole $100 up front?

There are a number of different payment plans to help make ownership affordable to everyone, and you are considered an owner right away no matter how you join. If you choose a payment plan, you don’t need to worry about remembering when your next payment is due. The co-op will contact you with an invoice when it’s time. All of our owners person and financial information is confidential and stays within our finance team.

Are there any repeat annual fees?

There are no additional, or annual fees above your $100 owner investment.

Why should I become an owner now, and what will my investment be used for?

The development of the co-op is largely owner driven. The co-op needs to build a strong ownership foundation during the development stage in order to be successful once it’s open. For instance, if we have at least 1200 owners when the store opens, we can make a strong assumption that many of those owners will shop regularly at the co-op for their grocery needs. Essentially, if you own the co-op, you will shop there! Every owner brings more community support, which is what will make our co-op strong!

What is the timeline for when the store will open?

We are following a timeline that involves three stages. This timeline lays out guidelines for ownership goals, as well as tasks that should be completed in each stage, before moving on in the development process. Most modern food co-ops take around 5 years to open. The planning for Free Range Food Co-op started in October 2015. There are a lot of different factors that will determine when our co-op will open such as recruiting a strong board and core group of volunteers, finding a suitable location for our co-op, raising enough funds during the capital campaign, and building ownership to a level that indicates strong community support for the co-op. We will re-evaluate our timeline as we move forward at each stage.

Where will the co-op be located?

A location has not been chosen for the co-op yet. Our market study has given us geographic recommendations based on the demographics of Grand Rapids. A site selection team will be recruited to narrow down suitable location possibilities for the co-op based on those recommendations.

Will I have to be an owner to shop at the co-op?

No. Everyone will be welcome to shop at the co-op! Whether you are an owner or not, you can expect the same exceptional customer service, and quality products. However, owners will receive additional benefits such as voting rights, additional discounts, and patronage dividends during profitable years once the co-op is open.

What will happen to my investment if the co-op doesn't open?

As with any investment, your ownership share is subject to risk. If the co-op is unsuccessful, the board of directors will determine distribution of remaining assets. In this unlikely event, every effort will be made to refund the paid portion of your equity share.

Is this a buying club or a CSA?

No. The food co-op will be a physical grocery store located in Grand Rapids, open daily all year round.

Will I have to volunteer in the store if I join?

No. As we get further along in the development process, a general manager will be hired, and eventually paid employees as the store gets closer to opening. Owners will not be expected to staff the store on a volunteer basis. However, volunteers are critical now during the development stage.

Does the food co-op board get paid?

No. The current by-laws state that the board of directors for Free Range Food Co-op is an unpaid board.

Is a food co-op a nonprofit?

No. A food co-op is considered a for-profit, cooperatively owned business. Cooperatives are regulated under MN Statute 308A & B, which requires the co-op to have a board that has legal obligations in the way it functions. In that respect co-ops are run a lot like a non-profit, but they don't run on investments or donations. We will have to be profitable as a cooperative grocery store in order to be successful.

Are you applying for grants to help get the food co-op open?

Although we are eligible to apply for grants, since we are not a non-profit, we will have to work with a fiscal agent in order to apply for most grants. We are aware of a number of grant possibilities, and are watching deadlines to make sure we file on time.