In 2013 and 2014, the Moscow Food Co-op released an owner survey to assess the direction in which customer-owners wanted to see the Co-op move. Joe Gilmore, the Moscow Food Co-op IT manager and expansion project manager, said the results of the survey were clear — customer-owners wanted to see more stores, or at least more access to Co-op products, particularly on the University of Idaho campus.
Four years later, the cooperative natural foods store located in downtown Moscow on East 5th Street is moving forward with plans to open a store on the second floor of the UI Campus Christian Center. Gilmore said conversations between the Moscow Food Co-op and the Campus Christian Center began about one year ago.
“We’ve been having conversations with the Campus Christian Center’s Board for maybe the last year or so trying to get something upstairs,” Gilmore said. “It’s been kind of a process because we had to go through and ask the city to rezone the location.”
When the Co-op first began looking into finding a space on campus, the Campus Christian Center, located on the corner of Elm Street and University Avenue, was one of the few locations that was owned privately and available to rent.
Since Sister’s Brew Coffee once operated out of the Campus Christian Center, Gilmore said the Co-op project team didn’t anticipate there would be any challenges opening a store at that location.
However, the location was zoned by the City of Moscow as residential, which does not allow for commercial use.
“Sister’s Brew Coffee had operated out of the Campus Christian Center for a while, so we kind of assumed we would be good to go,” Gilmore said. “Looking further at the city code, if we wanted to open a space in there it would need to be rezoned … so it’s really been a learning process there.”
Now that the Co-op has worked with the City of Moscow to rezone the location, Gilmore said the Co-op will begin construction on their new store in a couple of weeks. While the Co-op’s UI location does not currently have an opening date, Gilmore said the goal is to open the store around the time the school year begins in mid-August.
One additional challenge Gilmore said the project team faces is adapting to a smaller space.
The store, which will be located on the second floor of the Campus Christian Center, will be about 320 square feet, not including the indoor and outdoor seating options.
Currently, the location will have coffee, baked goods, deli items and some groceries.
“We haven’t settled on any real mix yet,” Gilmore said. “You’ll probably see staples like eggs and milk, so a couple of grocery shelves, a couple of refrigerated shelves, and some coffee and baked goods — so you’ll see maybe a greatest hits of the Moscow Food Co-op.”
Despite the challenge of adapting to a smaller space, Gilmore said the Co-op has received overwhelmingly positive feedback about their decision to open this campus location.
“We’ve had some pretty good feedback from our owners, we’ve had some really good responses from our faculty owners in particular,” Gilmore said. “The good thing so far is we haven’t had any negative feedback — it’s been really positive and we think it will be a rousing success.”
Corrin Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ CorrBond