Co-op eyes former Country Markett site


From The Lansing State Journal

by Jeremy W. Steele

 

EAST LANSING – Officials at the East Lansing Food Co-operative Inc. are eyeing a move that would have been unthinkable two years ago.

 

Some members and managers have had early discussions about moving their food store into the former Country Markett grocery store in the Brookfield Plaza. If a deal is sealed, it would triple the co-op’s space.

 

“It’s just a much better location for us,” general manager Dave Finet said. “The size will be a challenge. We’re going to have to both explain to our own satisfaction and for the landlord how we’re going to get the kind of community involvement to grow and how quickly we can do that.”

 

The co-op, known for its organic and locally grown produce and other products, would fill a void created when Country Markett shuttered its 10,000-square-foot store Dec. 31. The store was an anchor for the Brookfield Plaza shopping center at Hagadorn Road and Grand River Avenue.

 

That led some area residents to begin lobbying specialty food chain Trader Joe’s Co. to look at the space. Chain officials said they weren’t yet interested in opening shop in the Lansing area.

 

But the co-op still could face competition for the high-profile site.

 

Brookfield Plaza owner Robert Phipps could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

East Lansing resident Christine Beavers, who lives a few blocks away from the Brookfield Plaza in the Wardcliff neighborhood, likes the idea of moving the co-op. A co-op member, she said the store would fit in well.

 

Beavers said she used to shop at the Country Markett and now frequents plaza tenants Grand Traverse Pie Co. and Biggby Coffee.

 

“It couldn’t get much better for me to have my co-op, my pie and my coffee at the same place,” she said.

 

A move for the co-op would mean leaving the building it bought in August 2007. But it also could be another milestone in the organization’s recovery.

 

Last year was the first profitable year for the co-op since at least 2000, Finet said. And sales continue to grow.

 

The organization also has opened a satellite location at the Lansing City Market.

 

Finet expects to take the issue the co-operative’s board Thursday and possibly to its 4,000 members at its April 19 annual meeting. Members could be asked then to allow the co-op’s board to pursue a deal.

 

Meanwhile, he and co-operative officials have to figure out if they can come up with a business plan that could support the move, including extensive renovations to the space.

 

“We have a chance to go from being a cute, small grocery store to being a really nice, larger store,” he said.

 

Contact Jeremy W. Steele at 377-1015 or jwsteele@lsj.com.

 

Original article: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080325/NEWS03/803250364/1004/news03