Food Co-op More Than Halfway to Membership Goal

Merissa Koller-Williams. Kayla Desroches / KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Harvest Food Cooperative is halfway to its membership goal, and its board president says it should get easier to encourage sign-up.

Merissa Koller-Williams is spearheading the project.

She hopes word of mouth will spur membership on – one person tells another person, and soon membership is doubled.

She says the cooperative now has about 270 members. They need 500 in total.

“There’s a formula that the consultants have given us where you need a certain amount of members for however much your capital investment is gonna be. So, we’re projected at about $5 million that we need to raise from our community and the banks.”

One barrier to membership is people don’t always “get” the idea of a co-op. Koller-Williams says that’s partly because there aren’t many cooperatives in the state and it may not be a familiar process.

“I think people see it as you want me to give you 150 bucks right up front and it’s gonna be two years or a year and a half before this grocery store is open. What do I get out of it in the meantime? And how do I know it’s going to work? And things like that. So, it’s on us as a board to answer some of those questions, but also to help people understand the benefits of the cooperative model as a whole.”

Koller-Williams describes it as an investment. Those who step in early get a say in what the co-op might look like and what role it might play in the community.

“Do we want to be a conventional grocery store? Do we want to be a natural foods grocery store? Also, you get to help us sort of figure out what the feel of our store is. Like, we had an annual meeting in May and the consensus seemed to be that we really lack a community center and that the co-op could really embody that for us.”

She says it’s up to the community to decide both what the store will be, and how soon it will open its doors. As soon as they reach their membership goal, Koller-Williams says they’ll launch into their loan campaign and start looking at possible site locations.

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