Expansion Update

As I reflect on the past year and the future of our Co-op, I think it is important to take a moment to remember where we came from. Almost 40 years ago our Co-op was created by and for families in the Berkshires to provide real food to our friends and neighbors. These families founded the Co-op on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. And at the heart of this do it yourself spirit, is our founders shared belief in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. This is the cooperative spirit and it will continue to guide us as we grow into our new home next year. 

As most of you likely know by now, I have recently stepped aside from my duties as General Manager and I am now managing the expansion project full time. As Project Manager I am now able to focus on the Co-op’s expansion during this critical stage as we prepare for new store opening in April of next year. While the board of directors searches for a new General Manager, Luke Schell from St. Paul, Minnesota has been serving as the Interim General Manager. Since October, Luke has been busy digging in with Co-op management to ready the store for our expanded operations. 

2018 saw the Co-op make significant progress toward getting into the new store. After several long months and many public meetings, permitting was finally secured for the project back in February. Soon thereafter, several buildings were taken down on the property and site preparation began. Fast forward 8 months and we have a building coming up from the ground! The foundation and floor have been poured, the steel frame is erected and the wooden frame of the upper floors is just beginning to be built. Soon, our general contractor will mobilize to commence the interior fit out of the Co-op space and in just a few months time we will open our doors to a brand new chapter in Berkshire Food Co-op’s history. 

The project has not been without its challenges, however. As expected, construction on site has reduced customer traffic though we are still doing slightly better than originally expected. Overall, construction is going well but there have been delays and cost overruns. With final architectural plans in hand we were able to more accurately quote the cost of work. These quotes came in higher than our original budget. A construction boom in the area has made for a tight labor market for subcontractors driving the cost of work up. In addition, tariffs have affected the cost of building materials, in some cases by up to 15%. There have been additional delays due to weather and other circumstances that are not unusual for a project of this size.  All of this is to say that things are progressing quite well now, though on an adjusted time table and at a higher cost. 

To solve for this, we will be approaching Owners for additional loans this winter and into spring of next year. The amount needed is much less than our previous goal and we are excited to give our Owners an additional opportunity to invest in their Co-op and their community. The Co-op’s mission of providing real food to our community and doing real good in our community is rooted in creating more co-op economy. Our new home is critical to our mission and will help the Co-op grow its impact in a big way. If you are an owner of the Co-op and are interested in learning more about the upcoming offering, please reach out to me at 413-528-9697, ext. 101 or desko@berkshire.coop. 

In closing, I want to thank all of you for your generous support of the Co-op over the years. It is with deep appreciation that I also thank our founders, and all the staff, volunteers and community members who have helped make the Co-op what it is today. Without you, none of this would be possible. Together, we have all made the Berkshire Food Co-op a truly special place for our community. 

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