Breaking ground, planting seeds.

From the GM: We’re so excited to announce that after several weeks of delay, our loan signing with Chicago Community Loan Fund is scheduled! We close the loan at Chicago Title this Friday, April 14th at 10am. Signing this loan is the trigger to our final phase of construction, which gets underway next week. To kick things off, we’re holding a short groundbreaking event this coming Monday morning at 9am at the new site. We hope you can stop by to celebrate with us!

The final construction phase is estimated to take about four to five months, placing our opening in late August. This means we’re about to kick into high gear, building new systems for bigger departments, developing new training plans, and planning out an entire deli! And then there’s the next rounds of owner loan raising that meet our part of the financing agreement and take us to opening. And so I’m very pleased to announce the Dill Pickle welcomes Seth Murley, its first Store Manager, to the crew next week. Seth will be responsible for supporting operations of the current store and building strong systems for the new one, freeing me up to focus on the construction project, board reporting, ownership engagement and communication, fundraising, board support and planning. Seth brings fifteen years experience in managing food co-ops and we’re excited to work with him on continuing to improve and find ways for the Dill Pickle serve you better.

Honing our vision amidst the fray

From the GM: During a massive project like the Dill Pickle Co-op expansion, the perception of time exists in two extremes: a feeling that progress is moving way too slowly and, simultaneously, that things are changing so fast it’s near impossible to keep up. On the front half of the equation is finalizing financing and commencing with our final construction phase—a process that has been slow and meticulous, characterized by a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. And on the other side is the operational and cultural growth—evolution that is equal parts exciting, demanding and, at times, a little scary.

With our small staff and board focused on numbers, unwinding red tape, and developing better operational systems, sometimes we forget to come up for air and look around from our member-owners’ perspectives. This came into sharp focus at our March board meeting and last weekend at the Dill Pickle’s first ever board/staff leadership retreat. We had a tremendously productive six hours at the new workspace Second Shift, sharing, brainstorming and planning together from both governance and operational perspectives. One theme that emerged for pretty much everyone was a desire to take more time to communicate with each other, with our owners, and with our greater community. Talking about the power of cooperatives to build just, vibrant economies, to provide more access to nutritious food, to support local farms and producers, to create good jobs, and build connections between neighbors can take second seat in the expansion fray. But that’s no excuse. You’re our bosses and it’s time we reported back more often.

The work ahead is a major undertaking for a small group of passionate people, but we’re not in it alone; your choice to buy your food at an independent, community-owned business is why this little co-op exists and why it’s growing into a full-sized store to serve you and your neighbors better. There’s a lot of fundraising yet to do, but it’s important to remember the little storefront on Fullerton is the economic engine that started our project and pulls it up the road to 2746 N. Milwaukee.

Your purchases at the co-op are a vital piece of the pie; is there something you buy elsewhere you could get at the Dill Pickle? Is there something we don’t carry you wish we’d bring in? We want to know! Drop a comment in the box in the vestibule, talk to our staff, take a business card from the vestibule. This is your co-op and we’ll do our best to meet your needs, even in our tiny storefront. We ring up purchases from about 600 co-op owners a week; if each of those owners would spend $10 more per shopping trip, the store sales would increase $24,000 a month—a huge boost for financing our growth.

In the meantime, Chicago Community Trust is setting up escrow with Chicago Title to prepare for loan closing. I look forward to announcing the date the moment its on the books with the title company and celebrating a groundbreaking with you all in April.