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Facing Debt, Green Top Grocery Asks Owners For Help

Green Top Grocery must raise at least $300,000 this fall or risk closing its doors.

Board President Michael Gorman said the store already owes $2.9 million in loans to banks and owners. Gorman announced a loan campaign Monday to co-op owners with hopes to raise another $400,000 from owners.

“This campaign is really a question about whether or not the community still values the idea of having a co-op here,” Gorman said. “If we are unsuccessful with this campaign, we will have to close our doors. But we're pretty confident we'll be able to raise this amount of money.”

Credit Michael Gorman
Green Top Grocery's projected sources of capital should the Fall 2018 loan campaign be successful.

This is the first campaign the store has held since opening its doors in spring 2017. Gorman said three earlier campaigns held before the store opened raised a total of $1.3 million.

“To be clear, this has been an ongoing negotiation with the banks over the past many months here,” Gorman said. “This is not, it's not like the banks are against us or anything. They believe in our project completely and they're confident we'll be able to do this.”

He said new financial projections show the store remaining sustainable for at least 10 years, but only if the campaign succeeds.

“We have worked with our major lenders from the large banks that we've also received money from, and we've re-negotiated the terms of those loans so that we would be able to pay less in the short term so it doesn't cost us as much money to keep our doors open,” Gorman said.

For continued growth, Gorman said Green Top is constantly working on improving its operations.

“We're continuing to find ways to improve our margins and make more money on each sale while also lowering prices. That's through negotiations with our vendors and other promotional expertise," he said.

Gorman announced in May that the store was 50 percent behind its sales projection for the year. The co-op has since increased sales by 30 percent.

Store General Manager Christa Kramer said her team is working to update the store to make up for the gap.

Credit Michael Gorman
Green Top Grocery's monthly sales.

While researching how to update the store, she ran a study on the store’s wellness aisle.

“I did a reset in our wellness aisle of nine different sections and compared our data,” Kramer said. “And we actually saw maybe about a 23 to 30 percent drop in sales compared to the previous year. And when we did this reset, I was able to see over a 9 percent growth in just a week.”

Kramer plans to do an aisle reset every month, what she calls “manipulating the shelving for the best customer experience.”

“Seeing that data tells me that our aisles do need to be updated and freshened up, and bring in some fresh new products, and that's going to take a little but of time,” Kramer said. “And every single month I will be doing a reset somewhere in the store and work along with my buyers to freshen up and liven up all of our displays.”

She estimates it will take six to seven months before customers will see a major change on the shelves, but she says that’s “just the nature of the business.”

Green Top’s loan campaign announced Monday ends mid-November. Only co-op owners are able to participate. The minimum loan amount is $1,000. Green Top had around 1,883 owners as of Aug. 31.

You can also listen to the full interview:

GLT's interview with Green Top leaders.

Editor's note: This story has been edited to clarify the source of Green Top debt.

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