Case Study: Community Mercantile Extensive Renovation’s Planning and Resources

MercNews07DecCommunity Mercantile:Lawrence, Kansas
Founded: 1974
Number of Members: 4,000
Equity Investment:$75 per household
Number of Staff:120
Retail Square Feet:11,000

When Community Mercantile in Lawrence, Kansas had an opportunity to annex additional space onto their co-op, general manager Jeanie Wells figured a better return on investment would be a renovation of their existing space. Based on feasibility planning and focus group research with owners, board and staff, the co-op’s renovation last year was to concentrate on four specific areas:

  • Move the deli to the front of the store for better convenience and flow.
  • Create a café experience that is warm and welcoming.
  • Replace all of the store’s refrigeration.
  • Increase classroom seating by 50 percent.

The plan was to remain open and be expedient. The renovation cost the co-op $1.6 million, and was carried out in three phases over the course of four months. “It was both quick and dirty and major,” Wells said. She accomplished her goal, she believes, because she spent many months beforehand doing planning work with Denise Chevalier of CDS. “I knew what I was comfortable with doing,” Wells said, “I needed the most help with planning, getting bids, and especially the refrigeration system.” Chevalier was on-site almost weekly leading up to and during the early part of construction, and once things were wrapping up, Wells took over the day-to-day finishing work.

“It was a pretty invasive construction project,” Wells said, and she felt like she needed to have good coordination and communication with all stakeholders in order to pull off the plan with minimal disruption to store operations and sales.

“I had to be honest with myself. The areas that I felt the most nervous about are what I’d wanted to get help with. As a general manager, I’m used to running a grocery store, and when there’s a project there’s a whole new world of skills you have limited experience with,” Wells said. Chevalier helped her with the initial project plan, developing a timeline for how to hire and select people to fulfill various functions. “

[Chevalier’s] experience going through so many different kinds of projects was invaluable.”

Wells also has a strong assistant manager who she worked closely with both on the project and entrusted with store operations. Still, she knew going in that her workload wouldn’t be contained within the confines of a regular workweek. “It was a short time period, so I hunkered down for it,” Wells said, but also knew she wouldn’t take on such a big project without assistance. The co-op and the community had high expectations. “There’s a lot of pressure on general managers going through these huge changes for the co-op, and you don’t want to make a big mistake…it’s such a public project. Suddenly the whole town is watching,” she said.

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By |July 30th, 2008|Categories: Case Studies, Solutions|Tags: |

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