By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The dream of a grocery store on Delridge is still alive and well, and closer than ever to reality.
The Delridge Grocery Co-op board will tell you what was revealed by a professional market study whose results are now in.
Two years ago, a lender who turned down the co-op for a loan cited the lack of such a study as one big reason.
Now its findings have news that should improve their chances on the next try.
Board members are optimistic enough that they’ve launched the process of applying for permits for the store buildout in the 1,500-square-foot space that’s been waiting for it ever since the Downtown Emergency Service Center opened Cottage Grove Commons (5444 Delridge Way SW) almost four years ago. (They are working with North Delridge architect Parie Hines of LD Arch Design, a WSB sponsor.) The project was not originally intended to have commercial space, but community clamor led to its addition, with the grocery store in mind from the start.
And what began as the Delridge Produce Co-op eight and a half years ago has continued striving toward storehood ever since.
The work has continued despite a variety of challenges, including the difficulty of retaining members on the all-volunteer board. But recent recruitment has replenished the ranks, and three longstanding board members sat down with us the other day to talk about where things stand and what Wednesday’s “town hall” is intended to accomplish.
As mentioned, results of the market study will go public – board member Jason Miller explained that this study, funded by a city Neighborhood Matching Fund grant that the co-op sought and won, “assesses the feasibility of as tore, reviews site and location characteristics, identifies the competitive environment … provides sales forecasts over four years …” and looks at retail synergy, whether there are other businesses nearby to draw people. He said the projections were higher than what the co-op was expecting.
That’s not entirely cheery news, the co-op board members point out, because it’s a result of Delridge demographics changing, as housing grows more expensive. Said Miller, “The market study pointed out that so many people have moved into the neighborhood” in recent years. “So many of us got involved (because it was about) food justice – and now, some of the people we were trying to open the store for have been pushed out.” He’s been affected too, having had to move because of a major rent increase.
Nonetheless, Delridge’s status as a “food desert” – impetus for the co-op’s earliest origins – has not changed, so the need for a grocery store hasn’t, either. And the long-held vision of the co-op’s creation as a “full grocery store” remains the same. Within that scope, the market study has some revelations, Miller said, predicting “significant growth in ‘grab and go’,” which other stores in the area aren’t providing. There could be some synergy in that with the Delridge food-truck hub so close to the storefront – “might be an opportunity to partner with” truck operators to get ready-to-eat food into the store.
And that’s another way for the store to be uniquely Delridge.
Showing up at Wednesday’s “town hall” also matters in terms of demonstrating community support, added board vice president Ranette Iding. And it’s something an upcoming feasibility study will look at, too: “To show that the community’s there, the volunteers, the capacity, and if not, how can it be improved.”
Miller added that city and private grant money will fund the feasibility study, and there’s money for interpretation and translation, so they can reach out to many more members of the Delridge community.
While grants are vital for keeping the work going, said board president Andrea Wilmot, they also come with a lot of accountability requirements, and that work keeps the board busy too.
Iding wants to be sure longtime supporters know: “We acknowledge we’ve been promising and promising for so long … there’s disappointment and frustration … we want to do the best we can do to make this happen as soon as it’s feasible, (so we’re) being careful.”
But as they step toward success, there is more potential help waiting, such as “a large local business that approached us” about potentially helping, “so it’s exciting to know there’s still interest.” Experts from city teams continue to check in – “they meet with us almost monthly,” Iding says – to see how they can help get the store open; that assistance stemmed from the mayor’s first Find It, Fix It Walk in West Seattle almost two years ago, with participants getting a peek inside the future store space.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP: Be at Wednesday night’s meeting … become a co-op member if you’re not already … get involved with member-owner loans … volunteer to help (for example, they’re looking for help with their newsletter, and website updates, as well as people with philanthropy and business-development experience) … volunteer to be a board member … or any combination thereof! They’re also looking for a “local, affordable bookkeeper” (which is paid, not volunteer, unlike all but their grant-funded admin assistant). And they’re seeking donated meeting space with internet access.
P.S. If you can’t or don’t want to join the co-op online – you can do it at Wednesday’s town hall. And you’re also welcome at the next board meeting, 6:30 pm September 13th (likely at Cottage Grove Commons, though the location might change).
“We will open,” Wilmot declared.
(Questions or ideas before Wednesday? Or offers of involvement? firstname.lastname@example.org)