ELFCO to Sell Building, Consider Future Relocation

Monday, January 9, 2017, 8:22 am
By: 
Karessa Wheeler

Above: ELFO Board President Anne Woiwode addresses standing room only crowd at yesterday's meeting. 

At a standing room only meeting of members, the East Lansing Food Co-operative (ELFCO) overwhelmingly agreed to sell their building on Northwind Drive in East Lansing.

This doesn’t mean the end of the 40- year-old co-op, however, stressed board president Anne Woiwode at the meeting held in the Allen Community Center.

After an hour and half of discussion, the members voted 114 to 7 in favor of selling the building, which they purchased in 2007 and refinanced in 2012.

Last week, ELFCO’s Board of Directors decided to close the co-op’s storefront by February 4 after years of decreasing sales.

“Deciding to sell the store was one of the hardest decisions we had to make,” Woiwode said. “However, we are not talking about dissolving the corporation. Right now, that isn’t on the table.”

The sale of the building was met with much support as the co-op tries to decide what direction to take in the future. However, several audience members were concerned that the group may not get the full value for their building if they sell too quickly or are perceived as holding a “fire sale.”

The building has been appraised at $600,000 and could go on sale for a listing price of $675,000. The co-op still owes $412,000 on the mortgage. The building currently has two tenants in addition to the co-op, and is responsible for maintaining the building for those tenants after closing its own doors. Several members asked about finding a tenant for the co-op space, but others argued that the co-op was not designed to be a property manager and that they would still have significant costs associated with the property even if it were fully rented.

Following the vote to approve the sale, members discussed the possible future of the co-op. Many mentioned moving the co-op to a rental location farther away from its main competition, Whole Foods and Foods for Living, which are both located near the current co-op.

Suggestions included moving to the east side of Lansing, moving into the Allen Community Center, or moving to downtown Lansing. Also suggested was moving to Old Town.

“Our location has been considered problematic for at least a decade,” Woiwode said. “The east side of Lansing would be a far better location.”

Most of those present indicated that they would be willing to remain members following a move to Lansing. A few said they would not be willing to shop at a storefront located in Lansing.

The group also agreed that the co-op needed to make better use of its membership and open up more volunteer positions.

“I really think we should move and open up more volunteer spots,” said one member. “I think we are starting fresh. It’s time to move on.”