June Board Member Spotlight

Kate Gallagher Dunning has been a Co-op board member for 1 ½ years. She is the co-founder/co-owner of Talk To Me Technologies. She has lived in the Cedar Valley nearly 20 years! “That’s a long time for me. I moved to Waterloo from Cedar Falls a few years ago and love both towns. I’m so proud to be from these places. Building a food co-op here is exactly what we need and I’m energized by the details of helping see it through!”

What does Kate do when she is not attending a Co-op Board meeting, Site Selection meeting, or working? She is a board Member of the WCFSO, grant reviewer/member of the Iowa Women’s Foundation, and committee member of the Environmental Health Committee for Cedar Falls School District. She loves visualizing and gets lost in recreating/making spaces. She really loves cooking for her family, walking her dog, listening to books, reading, and writing. “I generally enjoy my days.” She recently learned how to play chess and is currently enjoying a winning streak against her teens!

Speaking of teens–she has four children ranging from ages 16 to 21 that also keep her busy. Jack studies music ed at UNI, Joey is transferring to Kent State University in Ohio studying visual communication. Frank and Lucy are runners, bakers, all around good conversation makers. Her partner, Ron lives in Dubuque, has two grown girls: Faradis is in her final year of Physician Assistant school at CUNY and Salma just finished at MASS ART in Boston. Ron works as a land stewardship director just across the river in WI. They also have Rosie (our pointer) and 6 unnamed spotted quail.

Update from the Board: Co-op Site Search Update by Kate Dunning, Site Team Chair and Co-op Board Member

“What’s going on with the site search?”

When I hear this question, I hear exactly how much the co-op means to the person asking. I hear, “I
care.” “I’m invested.” “I know this community will shop and support our co-op.” “Why is this taking so
long?” “I want my grown kids to move back here one day.” “What’s being done and how well?” “I
believe in this community!” “This isn’t just a store.”

One good thing about being a six-year-old start-up is that most of us have not volunteered in this effort
that entire length of time so we know exactly how it feels to be the asker – not knowing all the details –
but enough to know we’ve been blissfully/painfully close with some sites over the years. This is a
normal experience of start-up co-ops like ours. Most co-ops are incorporated 5-7 years before landing a
site, and many have a potential site or two that got to a certain stage then did not go further. Trials like
that are not indicators of failure, they are indicators of the incredible work of volunteer efforts and a
community of passionate member-owners that keep it moving forward.

This effort is ours – all of ours! The questions our community asks the site team really show the passion
for seeing the Cedar Falls Food Co-op through to the finish line! For example:

“Why is it all so secretive?”

Like any business, we weigh knowns against unknowns to calculate risk. There are four basic
requirements that best determine long-term longevity for food co-ops: size, accessibility, visibility,
parking. The site team determines how well each potential site meets each requirement. On any given
site, two of these requirements may be easily met, another requirement may be barely met, and the
fourth requirement may not be met at all. If the balance is met or nearly met, we move more deeply
into conversations and planning with either a developer or site owner. These conversations are
preliminary, and a deal is not guaranteed at this phase because both parties understand that mutually
beneficial terms must be met, etc. If there is an impasse, it is better for both parties if the work has been
done quietly so both can move on seamlessly to more fitting opportunities.

“Are we too focused on the perfect store that we overlook a good-enough store?”

We recognize that there are have-to-haves and nice-to-haves. To best serve and honor the investments
of all of our owners it is essential that we keep our eyes on a long-range, sustainably successful store.
When we consider sites, we aim to be not so rigid that we lose a great opportunity and not so loose that
we ignore red flags just to see the project done. ‘Done’ isn’t the day the doors open to the public; done
is broader and includes whether we have set up the store for success in years 2 and 3 and 10 and so on.
We use tools like financial proformas to determine a site’s feasibility based on the total area of the
store, the sales area, likely sales per square foot parking, visibility, and location. Those factors involve
planning, due diligence and reliable execution.

“It seems like our requirements are too narrow.”

They are not. For years we have collaborated with 40+ nation-wide food co-op start-ups in phases just
like ours, as well as non-profits built specifically around supporting food co-op start-ups. Their purpose is
to provide guideposts in the form of data and experience from successful – and unsuccessful – food co-
ops. The information available to food co-ops is reliable, specific, and well-tested. The site team and
other committees are in communication with these organizations and peer start-ups weekly. The top
reasons that co-ops fail: choosing a site that is too small or a site with poor visibility. Grocery is not an
easy business and good site selection is crucial. Settling on a site that is too small (or too big) or does not
meet our other basic requirements would likely result in lower sales per square foot, and potentially in
ultimate failure. We are using facts and data collected objectively over many years and shared freely
among co-ops to choose a site that will ensure the co-op’s success.

“How do the members of the site team really feel?”

The Site Team is excited. We are proud to do this good work for our community! We realize that the
community (ourselves included) has been waiting for the store to come to life for a long time. We know
that the time is now, and we are working very hard to make it happen!

“At the annual member-owner meeting in October, I listened to the presentation about the sites that
didn’t work out. What’s happened since then? Is there good news?”

Yes. Here is what the site team has done in the past quarter (March – May).
● Identified/vetted and prioritized 14 sites within our market area (downtown and outward to 18 th
street and highway 58 area)
● Onboarded realtor, Deanna Wheeler, donating several hours per week digging into courthouse
records, researching the co-op industry/requirements, investigating off-market potentials,
hitting the streets, spreading the word, contacting developers and property owners
● 15+ calls/meetings with developers/property owners
● 5 board meetings including site reports and solicitation of board input
● 3 site team meetings, with assignments executed
● digital site tracking updates
● 3 meetings with peer co-op start-ups
● FB Live event devoted just to site search history and facts to spread the word and elicit even
more potential

Also, we are narrowing in on a few excellent prospects as we write this. As you know, this does not
guarantee we have our golden ticket, but it means we are pouring all we have into what Deanna and the
site team have cultivated to-date.

Thank you for asking great questions, wondering about, and trusting our work. We are a great team of
five volunteers: Christine Sexton, Tom Wickersham, Terry Stewart, Kate Dunning and Deanna Wheeler.
If you have questions that were not noted here, or if you just want to talk more, email us and ask for
your question to go to Kate.

Kate Dunning, Site Team Chair

A Thank You to Melanie Drake

The Co-op Board would like to thank Melanie Drake for her service as Outreach Coordinator!

We recognize that Melanie has been an incredible asset in this position. She has created and run consistent and successful membership drives, managed volunteers throughout the organization, assisted the board with projects, and has been dedicated to the mission of the Co-op from the very beginning. She has been, for seven years now, the face of the Co-op in our community and beyond. Her energy and positivity in this position has been priceless. There is no question that she will be missed.

We hope you will join us in thanking Melanie for her outstanding service and dedication to the Cedar Falls Food Co-op!

Blueberry Cheesecake Galette

The berries are beautiful this time of year. This is one of my favorite recipes because you can use blueberries or the berry of your choice. This is a pie without being baked in a pie pan. I got it off the Food Network, and it is quick and easy to make. There is a bonus because if you’re short on time, use pre-made pie dough and since there are two rolls of dough in the package, I usually make two, one blueberry and one raspberry. You can top with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!Continue reading

Board Member Spotlight: Joy Thorson

Joy Thorson has been a board member for three years and started a new term last November. What does she do in her spare time besides volunteer for the Cedar Falls Food Co-op? Since retiring from UNI (after 38 years) in 2015 she also volunteers at North Star Community Services spending time playing games and having conversation with the consumers that attend there. She was the Stage Manager for the last two productions that North Star has presented, Pinocchio and Shrek. She has also been active with both the Cedar Falls Community Theatre and the Waterloo Playhouse and has been in over 25 different plays in over 30 years. While every play has had a special place in her heart, one highlight was to play Ouiser Boudreax in Steel Magnolias along with an amazing cast of actors. “I love to make people laugh and that character certainly did just that.”Continue reading

Update from the Board, from Joy Thorson

Once I retired, I never imagined myself learning a lot more about current technology! However, during this self-quarantine I have managed to attend a LOT of Zoom meetings (even hosting a few), play games with family via Zoom, chat with grandchildren even more online, take an online course, and even host Joyful Co-op Connections every week on Facebook Live. I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.Continue reading

A Message from you Membership Committee

Dear Co-op Member Owners & Future Co-op Member Owners –

We really MISS seeing your smiling faces and connecting with each of you, but we want everyone to be safe and healthy. We look forward to the time when we can be gathered together again!

Your membership committee, a plucky group of volunteers who work hard to engage all of you and recruit new member-owners, needs your help! We’re a small, but mighty volunteer crew with a huge passion for our community and our co-op, just like you. Practicing social distancing has created a new challenge for us as we’re unable to host gatherings, have a presence at community events, or gather people together for house parties. So we’re reaching out to you for support & help. We NEED you now more than ever!Continue reading

The UNI Local Food Program

The UNI Local Food Program works to develop a local and regional food system that positively impacts local farmers, consumers and businesses through education, collaboration, and economic development. Local food and knowing where your food came from is now more than ever. While some of the national supply chain is currently being affected, local food producers can help fill those gaps and allow you to still provide your customers with fresh quality products while helping the local economy. Check out which producers in our area currently have products for purchase.Continue reading

Texas Caviar

Texas caviar is a spicy Southwestern salad is the perfect dish to serve at your party or picnic. Black-eyed peas and black beans are mixed with an assortment of vegetables, mostly corn, red bell pepper and onion, and seasonings. This is a light and refreshing bean salad or dip that goes great with corn chips or in a lettuce cup. Make this dish the night before and let the flavors meld together. Texas caviar is a dynamite dish that everyone will love. This was a favorite picnic dish.Continue reading