Co-op looks to members to help fund expansion

MARQUETTE – Marquette Food Co-op management is hoping to raise $1 million from members in the coming year in order to assist in the construction of a new downtown storefront.

In pursuit of that goal, the co-op last month began offering a “preferred share” investment option to members.

“We’re offering 1,000 shares of the Marquette Food Co-op at $1,000 per (share), with a 4 percent dividend,” co-op General Manager Matt Gougeon said. “Now just our everyday member of the co-op can invest, and that’s really cool.”

The co-op will hold the shares without paying a dividend for up to five years, and the first dividend payment will be cumulative.

“Depending on how many shares we sell and on how things are going in the new store, we’ll build a buyback schedule,” Gougeon said. “Probably five to 15 years out.”

In order to purchase the preferred shares, a person must be a paid-in-full member of the co-op, as well as a Michigan resident.

The shares have been available since last month and more than 100 have already been sold. Gougeon said the shares will be actively marketed through May, and the co-op administration hopes construction work will begin in June on the store’s future home at 502 W. Washington St., where demolition is set to begin Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the co-op will begin seeking non-member donations, launching a fundraising video on, an international crowdfunding platform. Additionally, the organization is selling expansion gift certificates, which can be purchased now and redeemed after the new store opens.

Gougeon said the expansion project – for which the co-op is receiving assistance through state and local tax abatements, as well as from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation – will hopefully be completed by the end of 2013.

“If we were able to start construction this summer, six months later we would open the doors on the new store,” he said.

The entire project should represent roughly $4 million of investment for an organization that has been growing steadily for years.

Gougeon said the membership, which numbers in excess of 3,500 and includes mainly residents of Marquette and Alger counties, typically grows at a rate of 300 per year. In 2012, however, the co-op gained 543 new members.

The pending project should create about 8,000 square feet of retail space, nearly triple what is currently available at the Baraga Avenue location. A community room, meeting rooms and administrative offices will be created in the large basement.

“The floor plan is complete,” Gougeon said. “We’ve got the store designed.”

After the expansion project is complete, he said, the co-op should employ an additional 25 to 30 people.

Those interested in seeing the future home of the co-op before any renovation work is done can attend an open house Tuesday at the Washington Street location.

There, co-op representatives will be available from 4 to 8 p.m. to discuss the plans.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.