July 01--If BJ Pheiffer could pick the perfect piece of property for a full-fledged farm-to-market grocery cooperative in Santa Fe, that parcel would be the former home of Santa Fe Greenhouses, 2904 Rufina St.
Empty since the business closed in 2012, the 3.4-acre property is for sale, and Pheiffer and her supporters are actively trying to put together a financing package that could launch the Greenhouse Grocery, a nonprofit co-op where members volunteer and work as a way to keep the cost of their food and produce affordable.
"A food co-op should be more than about food, it should be about healthy living," Pheiffer said.
With experience at food co-ops in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and in Napa Valley, Calif., she brings a common-sense approach and understands things don't move as quickly in New Mexico. She has 227 paid members, but hundreds of others from the 1,500-person mailing list say they are watching and waiting until the cooperative secures a location.
Still, she said, the time to get involved is now, while the perfect piece of property is still on the market.
She envisions the site can be used not just as as the retail outlet for the grocery, but as a broader initiative to educate families and students about food and nutrition, and for aquaponics, which is already being done at Santa Fe Community College. A business plan put together by Pheiffer estimates the co-op would have 700 members with $10 million of sales within three years and a gross profit margin of $1.9 million.
Pheiffer herself has business experience with IBM and JP Morgan, and is a master gardener and chef. Her board and advisory panel includes many with drive and experience, including author Deborah Madison, local organizer Jeffrey Birnbaum, Tony McCarty of Kitchen Angels and Kate Rowe, a registered nurse.
And she has a 70-plus-page business plan that looks at other co-ops around the United States and what a facility located in the center of Santa Fe can expect in membership and growth. "Sixty-nine new co-ops have opened since 2006," Pheiffer said. "Only one has failed."
The proposed site on Rufina near Siler Road and Agua FrÍa Street would offer service to underserved communities on the south side and provide food options without marketing, packaging or transportation costs.
But what the Greenhouse Grocery lacks is an angel investor who can put up enough money to bring the deal together.
Still, Pheiffer is trying to make it work, offering to pay a portion of the property now and then the rest as the co-op grows and gains members.
But in this post-recession era where property bubbles are all too common, there is caution. So Pheiffer is knocking on doors, trying to find ideas and workarounds.
With its trove of family foundations and nonprofits, it seems that in Santa Fe, which prides itself on being a sustainable, green community, the co-op idea should be a no-brainer.
The next couple months will put that to the test. For more information, go to greenhouse grocery.coop.
----A new urgent care center breaks ground Tuesday with Trinity Construction as the main contractor.
Railyard Urgent Care is owned and operated by Dr. Victor Sherman and Dr. Troy E. Watson, according to Eric Tidmore of Trinity Construction, an Albuquerque-based company. The site at 830-832 Camino Sierra Vista, north of the busy St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road intersection, is now vacant, so the project represents needed infill in an area where land is underutilized.
----And Rivera Family Funerals is hosting a groundbreaking at 3 p.m.July 10 for its Chapel of Light addition for ceremonies and life celebrations at its property, 417 E. Rodeo Road.
Contact Bruce Krasnow at email@example.com.
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