Lakewinds Food Co-op is carving out a niche in the competitive suburban grocery scene

As a member-owned institution, Lakewinds is under pressure to make patronage refunds while continuing to grow at a rate faster than inflation. “Our growth strategy includes increasing membership and adding new stores,” Woodbeck says. “There are opportunities in the southwestern metro because land is still available; though, as in the residential market, it’s overpriced.”

Lakewinds financed its Richfield store, completed in 2014, with a mixture of loans from members and banks. “Members loaned money with four-, six- or eight-year terms at interest rates based on the length and amount of the loan,” says Woodbeck. “Our members have told us that they’re proud of the store they invested in, that it’s in line with their commitment to Lakewinds’ values.”

Lakewinds is now paying down its bank loans, thanks to the store’s rapid success. “Running my own business, I learned a lot about risk management,” Woodbeck says. “So before we commit to any new project, we spend a long time on sales projections and market analysis. We co-ops can learn a few lessons from traditional grocers in the fundamentals. For example, we’re still learning to access and use data to inform good business decisions.

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