Common Ground Food Co-op has been a vibrant member of the Urbana community for many years, and now the Lincoln Square Mall location is expanding to offer even more to area residents. We asked Joy Rust, marketing manager, to tell us about the project, what we can expect when it is completed and when construction will come to an end.
Q: Why did the Co-op decide to expand?
Rust: Common Ground is a community owner grocery store, so first thing we did was find out if our 3,000-plus owners wanted to expand their store. After several surveys and meetings, it was clear that the answer was yes, let’s make a bigger impact in this community. Common Ground’s expansion objects are to expand our capacity to:
- educate and enrich the community
- create an excellent, inclusive shopping experience for our customers
- reach a more diverse population
- be a part of a dynamic food shed
- provide rewarding employment opportunity
- contribute to a resilient local economy
Q: Since the Co-op is a non-profit, how did you raise the money for the expansion, and how much did you raise?
Rust: Actually, it’s a common misconception, but Common Ground is not a non-profit but is officially a cooperative in the state of Illinois. A cooperative business is owned by those it serves, and all profits must be returned to all owners equitably or reinvested in improving the business. With over 3,700 owners now, no one at Common Ground is driven by the potential profits, but instead by a philosophy to invest in and enrich our community. Because those who shop with us really are the owners, we had to collectively raise a significant portion of money ourselves as owners to be able to attract a lender to the project, they have to see that those who own the business are fiscally invested. Common Ground owners worked to together to raise over $1,000,000 in loans to their Co-op in only three months! Not only did we raise those funds ourselves, but then we are paying the interest back to our owners instead of a bank that will take that money out of our community. Its win-win for everyone involved.
Q: What will we see in the new Co-op?
Rust: Common Ground will soon be a one-stop shop! You can expect to see a lot of new and exciting amenities at the Co-op after the expansion. Where to begin? Common Ground will have an organic salad bar, espresso bar, an expanded bulk department, beer and wine, in store seating, a teaching kitchen (made possible by a partnership with the Flatlander Food Foundry), fresh local, regional and organically grown meat, a bigger produce department, a bakery, pizza by the slice, made to order sandwiches, as well as a greater capacity to sponsor more community events and give back to more local organizations!
Q: Why is it important to eat locally?
Rust: Foods start to lose flavor and nutritional value as soon as they’re harvested. Eating foods grown closer to home means they’ve traveled a shorter distance and arrived still full of healthy nutrients. Not only are local foods healthier and tastier, but shopping locally decreases energy use to get the food to our plates. When we purchase local and regional products and shop at locally owned businesses, more of the money stays right here in our community. When we purchase local food, we’re voting for local farms and making it possible for local farmers to stay on their land and even encouraging more young people to go into farm in our community as we grow the demand for local food in our community. Eating locally allows us all to develop and build relationships with those who grow our food which enriches the overall experience of making and eating food!
Q: When can we expect a grand opening?
Rust: The construction is projected to be complete early November of this year, but our official Grand Open party extravaganza week will be in mid-February 2013!