Astoria Co-op launches capital campaign

Astoria Co-op Grocery is planning a new $8 million, 12,000-square-foot location at 23rd Street and Marine Drive.

The co-op is selling 25,000 shares worth $100 each

By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

The Astoria Co-op Grocery on Sunday kicked off a $1.5 million capital campaign for a new $8 million location in the Mill Pond neighborhood.

General Manager Matt Stanley said the store, which emphasizes natural and organic food, has grown quickly over recent years, topping 4,000 member-owners.

“We see about 450 shoppers a day,” Stanley told a gathering of more than 200 members at the co-op’s annual meeting Sunday.

About five years go, the co-op knew its lease was ending at the end of 2018 and that the Exchange Street store was running out of space, Stanley said. A subsequent survey of shoppers showed more than 90 percent support for expansion.

After looking at several locations, the co-op signed a 20-year lease this spring with Astor Venture LLC at the corner of Marine Drive and 23rd Street for a new store at a cost of about $8 million. About half the money would come from Astor Venture, and the other half from the co-op.

A stipulation of the lease with Astor Venture is raising at least $1.5 million from member-owners by the end of the year, although the co-op hopes to reach $2.5 million, Stanley said. The fundraising drive had $430,000 in the bank when it kicked off Sunday.

The co-op is selling 25,000 shares worth $100 each, with a minimum investment of $2,500. Investors receive a 3 percent annual dividend on investments up to $10,000, and 4 percent for larger investments.

The store employs about 28 people with a payroll of $800,000, Stanley said. Employment is expected to climb to more than 60 at the new location.

“We’re probably looking at 65 people to open this,” Stanley said.

The co-op has touted the benefits of expansion, from offering more space for shoppers and a loading dock to take in supplies to being more competitive on pricing and expanding selection. Part of the expansion will be in local offerings. The co-op works with about 30 coastal food producers, Stanley said.

“I think of investing in the co-op as truly investing in your community,” Teresa Retzlaff, owner of 46 North Farm and a supplier of produce to the co-op, said in a promotional video for the capital campaign. “You’re investing in me as a farmer and you’re investing in my business too. You’re investing in all these small local food producers. For us, that’s so meaningful.”