FC2 Pushes, But Will Harrisonburg Pull?

Brent Finnegan -- September 30th, 2009

In what may be the last link to the DNR from hburgnews, today’s story about the Friendly City Food Co-Op begs the question: is the community buying what FC2 is proposing?

FC2 has been around for a while — I interviewed some of the organizers early last year — but the physical store location has yet to be announced.

After four years of preparation, the organizers of the cooperative have found a downtown building to house the store and they’re in discussions with a local bank to finance it.

Now, they are asking for the community’s help in this last “big push” to make the dream of opening a full-service cooperative grocery stocked with fresh and, in many cases, locally grown food a reality.

“If the community of Harrisonburg pitches in and shows that we have enough money and people available, then it will happen,” said Deb Rhizal, outreach coordinator for the co-op. “It’s in the hands of the people.”

Read the full story (while you still can).

In four years, FC2 has raised less than one sixth of their $600,000 goal, which has led some would-be supporters to question their methods. (CORRECTION: Deb points out in the comments, “FCFC only began an effort to raise $600,000 in member loans within the past month.“) J. Humphrey writes on the state:

i’m not a member and have been pending my membership until i’m convinced by someone that FCFC has potential. i’m further from sold than ever before. why give my money to a co-op production just to be shut out of the process?

Deb Rhizal promptly responded to Humphrey:

I can say wholeheartedly that I am totally in agreement with you. Co-ops are owned by the community and transparency and organization is the gut of what makes this alternative business model worth while. Access to information, and the ability to have a say in process, are tools that give us consumers a chance to make a real stand for what we will and will not consume – the whole purpose of a consumer’s coop! …

The preferred future home of FCFC is in downtown Harrisonburg in a building that is currently empty. If you look around at the vacant buildings and consider parking and viability and good access (limited one way streets etc), you’ll probably pick it out pretty fast. So why can’t I just put the address right here in this post? Because we don’t have a signed lease. We are still negotiating for a better price per square foot and for placement within the building (we aren’t using the whole available space), and we still need a bank committment before we can sign. If our site is public then we have an immense amount of pressure to make it work at that site.

Read Rhizal’s entire response here.

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8 Responses to “FC2 Pushes, But Will Harrisonburg Pull?”

  1. Deb Rhizzal says:

    I want to clarify that FCFC only began an effort to raise $600,000 in member loans within the past month. The board and a few additional supporters pledged $85,000 before taking the campaign to the whole membership in a letter post-marked 9/24/09. We have made two nights of follow-up calls on that letter and have already raised at least an additional $35,000 with several loaners still deciding on amounts. So far greater then 20% of the members we have reached are enthusiastically saying yes and making loans, and many others are grateful for our efforts and wish they could contribute. Over the past 4 years we have been creating a business plan, doing market feasibility studies, incorporating and preparing for a successful launch. We have doubled our membership every year since incorporating and have now reached enough people to begin the member loan campaign. It will likely take more members to reach the $600,000 mark, but I believe those prospective members are out there. I’ve found it a joy to be a part of co-ops! I hope many decide to try for themselves. -Deb Rhizal

  2. Thanks for the comment, Deb. I’ll adjust the story.

  3. Scott Rogers says:

    FC2 has raised less than one sixth of their $600,000 goal, which has led some would-be supporters to question their methods.

    The comment above still seems to be a bit off the mark. The $600,000 goal was publicly launched a month ago (with $85k already in place), and in the first month of their campaign they’ve raised an additional $35k, bringing them to 20% of their goal. Furthermore, I don’t believe the progress towards that goal (20% in one month) is what has “led some would-be supporters to question their methods.” The issue seems to be that some members don’t like the communication of lack-there-of from the co-op “insiders.”

    I’m a member of the co-op; I’m not an “insider,” but I don’t feel the same doubts, resentments and frustration that some other people apparently feel.

    I think it’s pretty amazing that $120k of loans have been raised from members of the co-op as another part of the financing to make the store possible. It speaks to the fact that while there may be some doubters, that there are definitely plenty of people committed to the vision of the co-op.

  4. Welby Lehman says:

    I’m a member and a volunteer for FCFC. It’s interesting how different people can have different experiences and perceptions. I definitely don’t count myself as a FCFC “insider” but I’ve never recieved any snotty treatment. When I attended an FCFC event and offered to volunteer, I was welcomed whole-heartedly. From what I can see, the many people involved with FCFC (board, members, volunteers) are working hard and giving of themselves for something that will benefit the community. For those out there who want the co-op but are frustrated with the process, I encourage you to give FCFC a second chance. Opening a food co-op is not an easy thing and I feel that the folks at FCFC have done an excellent job so far.

  5. Scott,

    I hear what you’re saying. But, like Jill Humphrey, I’m one of the “would-be” members, and I remain hesitant. I attended one of the meetings, and I’m the ideal target: I rarely ever leave downtown, I go to the farmers market on Saturdays, I financially support Our Community Place and WMRA/WEMC, I have a vegetable garden, I sport Little Grill and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” bumper stickers on my car … you get the picture.

    But I’m a doubting Thomas. I want to see/explore the building first. I want to know that it’s not a pyramid scheme or a feelgood pipedream.

  6. Scott Rogers says:


    I know what you’re saying about wanting to see/explore the building, etc. Obviously, this is a Catch-22. They can’t prove the concept until enough people believe in the concept, and some people won’t believe in the concept until the concept has been proven.

    Thus, the doubters like yourself will have to wait until enough people believe to get the co-op into a physical space, and then you too can believe by seeing. Thankfully there is a growing number of FC2 members who have not seen, yet have believed. :)

  7. Scott Rogers says:

    Here’s an update from FC2, a week later…

    Subject: Member Loan Campaign

    “The stats for the first 2 weeks of the Member Loan Campaign are in! We’re reached $191,000, plus several pledges of unspecified amounts – hooray! 24% of members we’ve reached with a phone call have made a loan and many others have voiced their support, shared info with a new member or bought an additional share. What a fantastic group!”

    Stay up to date via the Friendly City Food Co-Op Facebook Page

  8. Emmy says:

    Posted on Twitter this evening.

    FriendlyCityFC Primary funding in place for signing building lease. A few things need to happen but expected location is 150 EWolfe (former Mick-or-Mack)

    I hope this works out because I think this would be a great location!

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