Keweenaw Co-op shows off its new space, launches investment campaign
By GARRETT NEESE
Houghton Daily Mining Gazette
HANCOCK — In the vacant room where Keweenaw Co-op members will soon be shopping, Curt Webb was excited about what is to come.
“Pretty much every conversation I have — whether it’s with Co-op members or people in the general community, people who shop at the Co-op, who don’t shop at the Co-op — just the positive excitement and feedback I get from almost everybody I talk to, they go, ‘Wow, that’s such a great thing,” said Webb, general manager of the Co-op. “I’m looking forward to making it a reality.”
Keweenaw Co-op held a tour of the new space Tuesday night to launch its investment campaign for improvements and expansion. The Co-op entered into a purchase agreement last year for 612 Quincy St., the former Keweenaw Buick GMC site.
Community members, business and current Keweenaw Co-op owners in Michigan can all invest in the project, said Cynthia Hodges, the capital campaign organizer. The target is to raise at least $1 million of the $7 million cost through non-voting investments, she said.
“It’s been very positive,” she said. “Before we even announced our capital campaign, we had pledges of $150,000 from past board members. There’s been a lot of interest in getting involved.”
The new building will be about 14,000 square feet, about double the size of the current building, Webb said. Retail space will account for about half of that.
Moving to Quincy Street will allow the Co-op to have more than 60 parking spots, several times more than its current location, Hodges said.
Other improvements include a coffee shop, sit-down deli, indoor and outdoor dining spaces, a full-service butcher counter, and expanded product lines, including more local produce.
Opened in 1973 as a bulk-buying club, the Co-op has been in its current Ethel Avenue site since 1986 as a full-service grocery store. It has been looking for a new location for a while; efforts accelerated in the past three years, Webb said.
The co-op started looking at the Quincy Street site as soon as it was vacated a year ago.
Becky Weeks, who lives near Copper Harbor, has been shopping at the Co-op since 1985, shortly before it moved to its current site on Ethel Avenue. That change added more space and creating a more welcoming atmosphere. Being on Quincy Street will be “10 times better,” she said.
“It’s more space, and I’ve always wanted to have some place to eat,” she said, referring to the planned deli seating. The cramped parking lot of the Ethel Avenue site also makes it tough to see cross-traffic when exiting, she said.
“This will be much safer,” she said.
When construction starts will depend on the success of the capital campaign. Beyond some cash already saved up, construction will be a three-pronged approach, Webb said: the campaign, lenders and grants.
“The lender wants to see the other lined up, the grantor wants to see the other two lined up,” he said. “So we need to at least meet our minimum on the capital campaign — $600,000 — before we can move forward.”
If everything goes as planned, construction would start in August and continue through the winter for total construction time of about a year, Webb said.
Conservative projections have the new store showing 20% sales growth in the first year, Webb said. The Co-op will be able to support more local farmers through expanded food incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks, which matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program money to provide twice the amount of fruits and vegetables for lower-income shoppers.
“As we grow, our impact grows, and we can give back more to the community,” Webb said. “Hopefully we’ll be a bit of positive change in Hancock, and Hancock can thrive around us as well … good things are happening, but hopefully we can propel even more of that.”