Going to Kansas City

By Rita York Hennecke, General Manager

 Rita York Hennecke, General Manager

Rita York Hennecke, General Manager

After 44 years, your community-owned food co-op is ready to multiply!

Your co-op’s Board of Directors and management have achieved alignment to sign a non-binding letter of intent to open a store at the corner of 5th and Minnesota in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. This alignment has been built through a year’s worth of visioning, conversations and feasibility.

We are now in the process of negotiating a management agreement with the Unified Government of Kansas City/Wyandotte County (UG). The UG has demonstrated how much they value creating access to healthy food by mitigating our financial risks.

Where did this come from? 

We discussed this project with owners at our November 2017 Annual Co-op Meeting, but expansion has been a topic at the Board level for quite some time. To increase our impact potential, the Board rewrote our Ends in 2015 to say The Merc Co+op will be a “thriving consumer owned cooperative in our region.” Within Lawrence today, there are several factors that prevent us from opening another location, including high real estate costs, population limitations and market saturation with more competition to come. 

When the UG first approached us to be part of this revitalization plan, we were skeptical. The demographics don’t “fit” with what market analysts identify as “co-op shoppers,” and we feared being part of a gentrification project. But, as we explored this plan further, we found that many KCK community members have an awareness and a desire for a community-owned grocery store. In an effort to meet the wants and needs of our potential neighbors, we have started learning and developing relationships with community leaders and organizations.

This work has allowed us to examine how welcoming our current store and library café appear to the larger community. And, how we may have unintentionally excluded members of our community right here in Lawrence. Moving ahead, we will continue to utilize the 2017 shopper survey for guidance and seek more feedback on how to make our co-op more inviting through product selection, price and service. 

For the first time ever in the history of this co-op, we have the ability to bring the value of democratically governed business to more communities which means more local food, more co-op jobs and healthier communities.  

We’d love to hear from you. Please plan to attend our Annual Co-op Meeting on November 2, 2018, or feel free to contact me at 785-843-8544 or gm@themerc.coop.