For-profit food co-op idea germinating in Elgin
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News November 1, 2012 8:24PM
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:16AM
ELGIN — A for-profit cooperative food store just might be on its way to Elgin.
It is an idea that Carol Rauschenberger had been germinating for a while, she said.
While living abroad and across the United States, Rauschenberger had gotten used to doing at least some of her grocery shopping at a co-op — a local, collectively owned grocery store, she said.
“There were always food co-ops where we could by organic and bulk foods,” she said.
When she returned to her hometown of Elgin in 2006, she was surprised to find that — outside of one collective purchasing group that delivers dry goods on a monthly basis — there were no cooperative grocery stores in Elgin. The availability of good, fresh, locally grown produce and dairy or organic foods also was a concern for her.
“In Elgin, it is disappointing … to see the limited quality and quantity” of organic foods available at the big-name grocery stores, she said.
She would run into Elgin residents at the big-box stores, or smaller boutique grocers, that have larger selections of organics, Rauschenberger said. Many would ask her how they could get more organic and locally grown options here, she said.
Rauschenberger then started looking for other residents also interested in bringing a co-op here.
While hanging out with a clipboard at the Green Expo, held in May at The Centre of Elgin, Rauschenberger asked attendees if they, too, were interested in a food cooperative in Elgin.
About 70 people signed up as being interested, Rauschenberger said — bringing her and others to believe a collectively owned grocery store just might make it in Elgin.
Since then, several online surveys also have been forwarded to interested parties, and about 500 people have shown an interest, she said.
“My feeling was if we have 500 people showing an interest, basically we have 500 who would shop there. That is a good basis for, ‘Yes, let’s go forward with this,’ ” Rauschenberger said.
To help build on that basis, an informational meeting is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at The Centre of Elgin’s ballroom, 100 Symphony Way. Plans are to unveil the store’s name at that event as well, Rauschenberger said.
Much planning already has taken place. A group has been meeting since midsummer to research how to start a store in Elgin.
Some of the questions they have considered include what kinds of foods and other goods a store could sell, and what the ideal location could be, she added.
“I would like to see truth in labeling,” Rauschenberger said. “But when we own the cooperative, the users can be the owners and we make the decisions (of what to sell) ourselves.”
From that focus group, 10 people signed their names to incorporation papers last week, Rauschenberger said.
It will be a for-profit store, she added. “Our point of view is to make a profit, but we are not trying to maximize for shareholders. We want it to be a good place for people to shop because we own it,” Rauschenberger said.
“It is not all ‘granola,’ ” she said. “You can buy stock in our corporation; and as a shareholder, you all have one vote. You only have to buy one share if you want to,” and the store would be open to non-shareholders as well.