The Ypsilanti Food Co-op
not only survived but thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, and members are planning an expansion involving more prepared foods and an indoor dining space for 2021.
Ypsilanti Food Co-op General Manager Corinne Sikorski says the co-op has seen about a 10% increase in members over the last year or so, and grocery sales went up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Curbside pickup proved to be popular, even though the co-op wasn't set up for e-commerce. Instead, customers familiar with the store's offering emailed their grocery lists to the co-op, and staff picked the items out for curbside pickup.
Sikorski says that adding more prepared foods is a response to a trend co-op staff have been seeing. Co-op food sales went up in March and April of 2020 as many area residents sought out alternatives to busy mainstream supermarkets, Sikorski says, and many of them were seeking convenient but healthy foods.
"We came to the realization that people still desire food that's convenient and ready to go, especially with less opportunities for going into restaurants," she says.
Sikorski says many customers have grabbed prepared food and eaten it on a bench outside in the past, even during the winter months, so it seemed like a good idea to add an eat-in sitting area.
To support the eating area and the additional prepared food offerings, the building requires remodeling.
"We have been slowly growing and gotten to a point where we're working on expanding into the whole lower level of the building," Sikorski says. "There will be an expansion of the kitchen, bakery, and deli and a new eating space we haven't had before."
The co-op was established in a slightly different form in the 1970s. It moved into its first storefront in 1975 and moved a couple times before landing at its current location, 312 N. River St. The co-op expanded into the adjacent storefront in 1986 and took over the bakery next door in 2005. In 2011, staff offices moved into a vacated second-floor space and the co-op expanded into the entire ground floor of the historic building dating back to the 1840s.
Sikorski says the remodeling will be a "huge project" that will require borrowing from co-op members and possibly taking out a bank loan. Sikorski says she expects the remodeling project to wrap up some time in 2021, but adds that the timing of the project will depend on items like permit approvals and finance details.
Anybody interested in helping with the capital campaign to remodel and expand the Ypsilanti Food Co-op may watch the group's website
for upcoming fundraiser details.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.