A store?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cafeaulaitinfj, Oct 14, 2004.

  1. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    I've been thinking (very early planning stages, and not definite) of opening a store for organic foods. I would carry organic produce, meats, and dairy products, etc, raised by local people. Assuming there is a market and it can be made to be profitable, do you think that local folks would be intersted in that kind of an outlet for their products?

    I live in West Central Indiana, so there is plenty of ag around here if there is any interest in growing things organically.

    I might have a coffee shop with fancy coffees, too, if I can make the two things work together.

    Opinions? Ideas? Advice? Knocks about the head?

    Thank you!

    Heather
     
  2. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    An expensive start-up deal, your customers grow slowly, but a lot of expensive overhead needs to be paid right away.

    There is a food coop that sounds exactly like what you wish to have near me. might want to check out their ways. In a small rural town of less than 10,000, so it can be done.

    http://www.mnriv.com/coop.html

    --->Paul
     

  3. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    As a small business owner I suggest you make an appointment with your local small business development office (check the blue pages of your phone book). The SBDO will have people who are retired from various businesses who can do the numbers for you and see if you can afford to open such a place. It usually takes three years for a business to turn a profit- do you have enough money to keep your family and business afloat for that long a time? The SBDO will let you know what you will have to invest and help you predict if your community will be able to support your store. If you don't have venture capital already in the bank, a good accountant and a good lawyer I suggest you discuss that with them also. Sincerely wishing you good luck.
     
  4. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    Yep, that's the kind of thing I'm thinking of. I would start pretty small at first, of course. My town is a retail center for a 60+ mile radius and a population of 55,000 people, is a college town and has nothing like that. There are two health food stores that carry supplements and essentiol oils and whatnot, and there is at least one naturopathic? doctor who seems to have a good clientelle. It seems like the next step is a natural food store.

    Hmmm. . . too bad someone will probably get to it before I do because of the financing thing. Ill at least try shaking the tree a little and see if anything falls out.

    So do you supply anything to this store?

    Heather
     
  5. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    I wish you were doing it here! We are ovo-lacto vegetarians and find it very difficult to get the kind of stuff you want to sell. And since we grow all our own organic vegetables and get our eggs from our flock of free range hens, we could even provide you with fresh produce and eggs!

    You will have to research your local community to see if there is a market where you are, but this kind of food is starting to catch on as people learn that organic food and home raised (pasture fed and non-BGH or antibiotic treated) cows, etc. are not only healthier, but taste better!

    Good Luck! :)
     
  6. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

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    You may want to check out some of the Farmers Markets that run in your area. Perhaps some of the vendors would be willing to sell you some of their products for your store. In Austin Texas they have a Farmers Market that brings in over 100 merchants. These merchants sell produce, meat, eggs, cheeses, flowers, etc.

    Best of luck with your store!!
     
  7. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

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    Heather,

    Our local Kroger in Hot Springs has a good selection of organic stuff. It is expensive and a lot of people around here simply can't afford it. Organic milk runs $3.78 for half gallon. An organic head of lettuce is $3.98 vs. $0.98 for regular. Organic butter is $5.98 lb vs $3.33 for the regular.

    Take your time and look at everything on this venture before jumping in. The goal of any business is to make money. If you can't make money, don't do it.
     
  8. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Im not exactly Mr Treehugger and I shop at those kinds of places.They are hard to find and are usually found in the upper class areas with more disposable income.My favorite was in Solvang(If I recall).They had a great Deli of sandwiches and salads and sliced meats,and it was pricey but puts Subway to shame,we tried to eat there 1 time a week.Then they had a honey machine,and barrels of all kinds of grains and beans,and the prices were palatable to the budget.A small selection of packaged meats that was very pricey,but they only stocked a little of that.The grocery section was loaded with canned/jarred and packed food stuffs.I liked the veggie section myself,very good produce that wasnt store looking,actually had faults on the produce,not that plastic looking supermarket stuff stuff,and real flavor.Prices were competitive to stores up to twice as much,depending on what was available.They also had little rock gardens in buckets with fountains thru the veggie section,with quiet soothing type music,reflector globes in some,it was a kick and just fun to walk about.Made you want to dawdle about,and we did,easy to spend an HOUR just dilly/dallying about.
    But their overhead was high,it was a high rent area,but they packed the place.
    Been to others in our travels too,they are rare as far as I can see,but I make an effort to check em out,I like GOOD food and will pay a little more,lots of folks will too.
    Best of luck,hope you can turn it out.
    BooBoo
     
  9. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Heather one thing that you might want to check out is a grant. There are a lot of sources out there that offer start up money for small business's, especially ones owned by women. It takes time to get it all processed and you have to do a lot of leg work but if there is a call for a business, such as the one your thinking of, perhaps you can get what you need to do it. Do a search on google and your bound to come up with something.
     
  10. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    Plan,plan,plan and then draw up a business plan. Don't take the planning advice as a joke. The lack of a real business plan is usually the cause of a business to fail,not the execution. Many times it appears to be the execution but usually it falls back on poor planning due to under capitalization (see planning) or lack of business (planning again).
    I would be VERY careful about borrowing money for a business. I wouldn't invest any money that I couldn't afford to lose if it doesn't work out.
     
  11. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't even think about starting anything until at least summer. And I am lucky to have several sm business people in my church as well as the small business advising thingy at the university. I won't go off half-cocked.

    Our Krogers carries some orgainic foods, small section of produce and Laura's Lean as well as a few isles of packaged health foods and a cooler of juices and dairy products. I sure can't afford it, lol.

    So I guess my next question is: does it *have* to cost that much? Or are they pricing it so high because they *can*? Do you think it would be possible to offer these foods for more than the mass produced regular stuff, but a fair bit less than what Krogers charges? See, I'm pretty ignorant about this stuff.

    I'm wondering if the long distance shipping and the fancy packaging drive the price up on these items. If I used local growers and we went with low cost packaging maybe we could offer it at a more affordable price. I would love to give more people (including myself) access to good foods. I would also love to give local people a market for organically raised stuff as well as give people an incentive for growing more things that way. I don't know though, maybe not enough people care. It is, after all, America, home of the supersize.

    Can one make money and be altruisic or is that just a fantasy?

    Maybe I could start with just a small produce stand on a busy road with a big sign that says "organic produce" and see if I get any business. I could ask the folks, if any, who buy if they would buy organic meats and dairy products, etc if they were offered, how much they would be willing to pay, etc. Test the market a little. Sorry, brainstorming here.

    Whataya think, all?

    Heather
     
  12. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    I've heard about things like that. I will see what I can find out. I don't mind the time. I'd rather do things right than have my time/money wasted and have it all blow up in my face, lol.

    I almost think If I could break even after about three years and get the foods I want for my family in the bargain, I might be ahead. I dunno. Maybe the effort would be better spent on something else.

    Heather
     
  13. JulieNC

    JulieNC Well-Known Member

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    We have a small town, maybe 5,500 folks, although we've got lots of people outside the city limits (myself included). I'd say all together, we probably have about 7,500 people who consider Hillsborough home (maybe more).

    Anyway, a couple of years back, a woman tried to do pretty much what you're talking about. It was a very small store located on historic main street. Parking wasn't an issue and there was a fair amount of traffic. Problem was her selection was sooooo small that you just stopped by every once in awhile to see if she had anything interesting. Things like cous-cous, grains, and such, you'd buy them in Durham at our local Whole Foods Market (about 1/2 hour away). She occasionally had some nice produce, but it was really hit and miss. Same with baked goods.

    Because she couldn't order in large quantities, she had to pay more wholesale, and that cost got passed on to the consumer. And, of course, you have the cost of the building. Because she and her husband were the only employees, they kept very abbreviated hours. (They had children.) There were times when I was downtown, and I'd drop by to see what they had. Closed. :(

    I think the store was there about six months, and when it closed, no one missed it much.

    I'm NOT trying to discourage you, but, as others have said, you really need to have a good business plan and to think about the niche that you're filling. If folks can go to a grocery store that has a good selection of organic stuff that's only 1/2 hour away, that's where they're going to do most of their shopping. When you're selling produce and baked goods, you can have serious problems with turn-over. Canned stuff you can keep on the shelves for quite some time . . . produce/bakery stuff has a very short life-span, and if you sell it slightly stale, folks know it.

    Man. I really sound like doom and gloom, and I certainly don't mean to. :(
     
  14. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    It might be a good idea to start small with a produce stand and slowly grow into your store idea. By the time the produce stand had been going for two or three years you should either have a customer base and suppliers, or know it wasn't going to work.

    Kathleen
     
  15. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Heather,

    My guess is that you are in Terre Haute. I'm 25 miles away, but in Illinois. If you really want access to good food from local producers at a reasonable cost....get a farmer's market started in that town!!!

    I have no idea why they don't have one and I would love to help you get one started. I'd do it myself, but since I live in Illinois....they aren't going to listen to me.

    The grower's I see at farmer's markets sell their produce (organic) for very reasonable prices and sell their surplus at produce auctions. Once you add the overhead for a small store.....you'll be right up there with them in price (that's why I sell meat from a trailer).

    Another option would be to purchase produce from grower's and sell it at a road-side stand or from a parking lot. There are folks who do that at farmer's markets (depending on the rules of the market), but there's no reason why you can't do it on your own. I sell my meat from a parking lot here and am doing pretty well with it. It sounds goofy, but once people get to know who you are and what you do, it can work.

    If you are indeed in Terre Haute, PM me as I have other ideas and some information I've discovered about doing business there.

    Jena
     
  16. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    How about a mobile "store"? Get a large van , like a Fed-ex truck and establish a route. Park around town , same time and place every week and establish a clientel base. This would be a "value added" feature....convieniece. As you progress , you drop the bad locations. The startup should be cheaper , you wouldn't be stuck in a lease , you could liquidate if it failed. If after awhile you decide you want a regular store you would know the best area.Remember......
    Location , location , location. Planned right , some of your stops could be picking up fresh merchandise. A few strategic locations , and you could possibly sell-out( A heavy traffic rush-hour spot at the end of the day and you can unload all your perishables at a discount).You wouldn't be stuck in a store all day and you could custom taylor your time off.
    I could go on.........but toss this idea around.....Jack
     
  17. Chas in Me

    Chas in Me Well-Known Member

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    There is a lot of excellent advice in this thread. The best has to do with business planning and finding a good location.
    I did roadside selling and found there were places where people wouldn't stop. That is good knowledge.
    Business planning is essential. If you don't have a Small Business office nearby, talk with a commercial lender about what he/she would want to see in a business plan that was going to be used to back up a loan request. Don't go in to a loan officer cold, let them know what you have in mind and find out what their objections are. You would be surprised at how much information a Loan officer will give out before you ask for a loan.
    Mudwoman's comment about making money should be first in your mind. I have counseled a number of people who wanted to start a business. If someone came to me and said they "want to help their town, help people,or had some other do-good reason for going into business", I would send them away. If you don't want to deal with the profit motive, open a charity not a business.
    Good luck. I hope you do well.
     
  18. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    So, IF this is what I decide I want to do, first I go to the small business office, get some good feedback, have them help me put together a business plan. Then I go to the commercial lender and bounce ideas off of him and find out what he likes and doesn't like, etc.

    So are you saying that one has to be a selfish, cut-throat person in order to make a business go? I KNOW that the point is to make a profit. I suspect that one can do that while also being helpful to those in their community and doing good. My primary motive would be profit, but I'm not going to forget about helping where I can or my ethics. Many of the folks who want organic type foods are also concerned about animal wellfare and the environment, among other things. I don't think they'd have a problem with a few collection cups on the counter for some of the local charities or a bulletin board announcing volunteer projects they could participate in. It's a way to give back without costing myself a dime or exerting massive ammounts of man hours, see what I mean? If a business isn't "helping" people by providing goods or services, etc, then I don't think it would stay around very long. It would be "helping" by giving locals a place to sell and folks a place to buy good quality foods. I wouldn't be taking the shirt of my back and handing it to any passerby. If it isn't going to be a profitable endeavor then I'm best off doing something else or staying home reading a good book.

    Of course, I could, instead, start a not-for-profit organization secure a government grant and pay myself a salary and spend my time teaching the poor thriftiness and life skills. That might be more fun. Used to be you could use foodstamps to buy vegetable seeds. Hmmm. . .

    Heather
     
  19. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Don't know if this would help, but. You said it was a college town. Have you gone over to the campus to see what is avail for the students by way of quick meals? Last time I was in college there were many times I had back to back classes right around lunch time and could not go somewhere and eat. The pushcarts were doing a booming business. One with organic, healthy meals would have been such a change from hot dog, greasy egg roll vendors. Especially if you could offer both meat meals and vegetarian meals. Seems like a lot of college kids want to give being a vegetarian a shot. And they do not know how to prepare healthy meals.
     
  20. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In Pensacola FL there was/is a lovely co-op org food store. http://www.everman.org&memid=1081 If owning it/controlling it all isn't your major goal what about finding a few like minded folk and doing a co-op? You'd have that many more folk dedicated to keeping it alive and shopping through teh co-op. I suggest reading the "What is a co-op?" info at the ever'man site. In my childhood town my neighborhood had a few co-ops. Problems with staffing- better I recall if money from memberships or 'profits' pays staff rather than trying to fill shifts with volunteers.