Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a food co-op?
A: Food co-ops are neighborhood grocery stores that go the extra mile. They are locally owned and community grown. Clipper City will be a full-service grocery store that stocks as much local, organic, and healthy food as possible. When you purchase a share in Clipper City Co-op for $200, you become an owner and have equity in the business. Although anyone will be able to shop at Clipper City Co-op, it is owned and controlled by the owners. Unlike a business owned by an individual, family, or a corporation; profits from a cooperative are used to help the store better serve the community's needs or returned to the owners.
Q: What is the benefit of owning a share in the co-op?
A: Buying a share in Clipper City Co-op is an investment in the Manitowoc area community, its
health, and its economic well-being. The co-op is organized with one class of capital stock:
Class A stock is the ownership stock of the co-op. One of the most important reasons current
owners have joined is because they want to help improve Manitowoc community. In addition,
co-ops support local farmers by providing them a place to sell their meat and produce
year-around. By investing in a share of the business, you will also have the opportunity to share
in the decisions and operations of the co-op. Owners can give input on business decisions, run
for the board, and vote in important co-op decisions. If the co-op shows a profit, owners may
receive that money back in a patronage dividend. Simply put, a co-op is an opportunity for
people with similar needs to pool their capital together to fill those needs. Currently, monthly
owner perks are offered to our owners at various businesses throughout Manitowoc County.
Q: Why do co-ops matter?
A: Co-ops are locally owned by you and about 1000 of your neighbors. Co-ops are about
helping us all engage more with our communities to make them better places. Co-ops create
jobs. Co-ops improve the local economy. Co-ops stimulate the creation of other small
businesses. Co-ops become a hub for learning and building relationships. Co-ops provide their
owners opportunities to take active roles in building the business and meeting the co-op’s
missions. Co-ops introduce eaters to growers. Co-ops care about health and well-being.
Q: How much does it cost to be an owner?
A: The Class A Membership (aka Ownership) stock is issued to a person or household for $200.
At this point in co-op development we accept incremental payments towards full ownership,
Updated 8/28/17 including a $20 per month option for ten months, quarterly payments of $50 or payment in full.
Q: What will my $200 be used for?
A: The funds are used to open to store. Funds are necessary to complete a feasibility study,
conduct community surveys, print material for community outreach, and build partnerships with local producers. In addition, funds are needed to build leadership, hire consultants, and
undertake other necessary operations to work responsibly towards opening a cooperative
grocery store in Manitowoc. Clipper City Co-op operates on cooperative principles and
transparency is essential. All operating decisions and accounting of money spent will be made
available upon written request, or provided on our website: www.clippercitycoop.com.
Q: When will the co-op open?
A: Clipper City Co-op follows an ownership driven timeline, a time-tested model developed by
the Food Co-op Initiative. A site-selection committee was formed in May 2017, when we
reached 285 owners. Owner equity helps us demonstrate to our primary and secondary lenders
that we are a sustainable project. Owner support is vital to keep us on track to open our doors.
Typically a co-op our size would need 1000 owners to sustain the business. Since we began
selling stock, we have averaged about 125 new owners per year.
Q: Who will be able to shop at the co-op?
A: Everyone will be welcome to shop at Clipper City Co-op, whether an owner or not. An
important aspect of Clipper City Co-op’s mission is providing access to healthy food to all
people, whatever their background. Owners can expect regular discounts.
Q: Where will the co-op be located?
A: The goal is to open the food co-op in downtown Manitowoc, an area determined to have
limited grocery options. Our initial market study was conducted at the end of 2015 by Dakota
Worldwide, a consulting firm that specializes in grocery cooperatives. The study shows that it is
feasible to bring a full service food co-op to Manitowoc. The recommended size of the store is
4500 square feet with 3100 square feet of retail space. Our site selection team began its work
in May 2017. A second market study will be completed when we reach 700 owners.
Q: How is a co-op funded?
A: Cooperatives are financed in a variety of ways. They may get their operating funds from
ownership fees, common or preferred stocks, bonds, by borrowing from banks, or from other
sources. We will begin an owner-loan campaign when we reach our next goal of 750 owners.
Cooperative banks, local lenders, private donors and owners choosing to loan money to the
co-op are all part of our proforma finance plan.
Q: What will happen to money if the co-op fails to open?
A: Owner equity is an unsecured asset in the co-op, and should the co-op fail to open, for any
reason, there is no guarantee that the shares will be paid back. Some money is being used for
printed materials, outreach, and owner-member recruitment. In addition, some money has been used to match the $10,000 grant from Food Co-op Initiative that we were awarded to help pay for the first market study. No money has been used to pay for staff, all work is strictly voluntary at this time. Typically, money would be redistributed to owners as fairly and equitably as possible.
Q: What does reaching 750 members really mean for the COOP? We talk about this a lot in the community. Is it site selection? What is the next phase? Is there a timeline?
A: There is a timeline. But instead of using dates (which would be meaningless) it uses the number of Owners as a measure of readiness and preparation. Our Marketing Study, which was done in 2015, analyzed the grocery market in this area and recommended what types of criteria we need to consider in our site selection process, including that our goal be a store in the 5,000 SF range and that we would need a minimum number of 750 Owners to make such a store financially sustainable. So this becomes the number at which we can begin Stage 3 of the Coop development – Implementation. And the Implementation Phase begins with, among other things, hiring a General Manager and beginning negotiations with a prospective landlord.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE HIT THE 750 OWNER MARKER?
A: For several years Clipper City Co-op volunteer leaders have talked about our move ahead goal of 750 owners. As we near the 650 mark the end is in sight! Here is an explanation from our Co-op Board of what happens next.
In November of 2015, the Clipper City Co-op contracted for a feasibility study which indicated a minimum of 750 owner shoppers would be needed for the store to be economically sustainable. That number became the number used in the timeline for when it would be appropriate to sign a lease with contingencies.
As we start closing in the milestone of 750 owners, several key events can start unfolding. The next big steps the board will be implementing at this time are securing a site and organizing the rest of the funding to design and construct a cooperative grocery store in downtown Manitowoc.
The Clipper City Co-op board of directors through a site selection committee of volunteers, has already completed an extensive review of numerous potential sites using a formal site selection process. With the results of this site search in hand, the board has recently requested a market study of the top three or four sites which will assist them with the final selection process. This market study will also be a necessary document for securing funding from financial institutions.
The next stages of the Co-op’s development will require financing. This will be done through a capital campaign. The board of directors has approved a budget for the capital campaign and work has begun to organize committee teams for the various areas necessary for securing funds. This campaign will work to secure funds from grants, donations, owner loans, and traditional loans. Owner loans are important when calling upon banks for loans, because they indicate owner commitment to the project.
While the campaign is in progress, the next critical step is to recruit and hire a general manager. Once hired, the general manager will have an important role in developing the building design, creating a vendor network and hiring and training a staff before the co-op can open its doors and begin operations.
As we approach this major juncture, ownership growth and owner assistance will be a vital component of the successful opening of the Clipper City Co-op, our community grocery. The board of directors will be looking to all of the owners for volunteer assistance and a continued focus on growing our ownership. As you can see, much work has already been completed and there is a lot more to be done as we prepare for the announcement of the site and the kick off for the capital campaign. 750 owners gives us incentive to begin the next development phase in the process of making the store a reality.
To volunteer to make our community grocery a reality, please reach out to Clipper City Co-op by using the website, facebook or dropping in at the office. We need your help now to bring this impactful establishment to Manitowoc.
Q: Where is Clipper City Co-op located?
A: While we do not yet have a physical location for the store, we do have a working permanent office and meeting space (by appointment) located at the First Presbyterian Church in Manitowoc. Beginning in October 2020, we also began to have regular office hours open to the public at temporary downtown spaces. Our Pop-Up Office Hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am-1pm and Thursdays for our weekly meet-ups from 5-7pm. Anybody can drop in and visit us at our pop-up office during these times. We are at 822 Franklin St. Manitowoc until Feb. 3rd, 2020. After Feb. 3rd you can find us one block away, in our temporary office, inside the Schuette Building (enter on Jay St.)