KELOWNA - A local grocery co-operative is throwing everything at the wall in an effort to stay open after a dismal month of business.
Eve Oleksyn is the manager of One Big Table, a co-op on 1440 St. Paul Street that opened in September 2017 with a focus on fresh, local food. Oleksyn said the group has struggled financially this year in ways that have pushed their business to a breaking point.
"May was brutal," she said. "It was our worst month for sales."
Oleksyn said the drop was like nothing else in their nearly two-year history. She said constant construction near St. Paul Street and Bernard Avenue restricted traffic and limited the number of customers who came to the store. One Big Table also saw a high staff turnover that month, meaning they had to train new employees, which can take time.
The One Big Table name, being fairly new to Kelowna, might also not yet be well known enough to pop up on shoppers' radars. Oleksyn said she often hears new customers say they'd never heard of the store until they stumbled across it.
Business was so bad in May that One Big Table decided to make their problems public. They made an Instagram post in June outlining how their cash reserves are dwindling to the point of forcing them to close their doors.
>>> HELP KEEP ONE BIG TABLE OPEN <<< Dear One Big Table members, I am writing you today because we need your help. On September 6th 2017, the One Big Table Co-op opened its doors in its small location on St. Paul. From day one, we have pledged our dedication to the unique flavour of our region and to the artisans that create them. Together, we have learned where our food comes from, how it’s grown or raised, and how farmers and producers are compensated for their work, while providing a place for you to shop ethically daily. Like many startups, we opened with limited resources and after a few months of slower grocery sales, our cash reserve is shrinking; we are now under threat of closing our doors. We have responded quickly and decisively by refining our operation & focusing on groceries but despite a growing membership base & a great team, we still need help increasing our monthly sales. We are asking our members to support in any of the following ways: - visit the shop more frequently (of the 500 average visits we receive per month less than 20% is a repeated visit) - buy a little bit more with each visit - bring a friend to the shop - purchase a gift certificate - spread the word about the need for support with your community - participate, once again, in our upcoming AGM on July 10 to have a productive discussion about how to collectively improve One Big Table. It’s up to us to continue to see our community with OBT and guarantee diverse access to wholesome food in the downtown core. We understand participation to be the key to successful social change and embrace our little co-op as our own way of creating a meaningful opportunity to cultivate it. So let’s participate.
Oleksyn said the post seemed to spike business for the store, as June was better than May revenue-wise. However, Oleksyn fears the increase was a temporary blip as sales numbers have started to slump again.
"Things are looking better," she said. "We have to keep the momentum going."
One idea to stimulate the momentum is Sunday store hours. One Big Table is now open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Oleksyn hopes the Sunday hours will attract crowds from the Satellite Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market on St. Paul Street, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. It's a chance to expose their brand to a new swath of potential customers.
"We're like the Farmers' Market every day," she said.
Oleksyn encourages people to support local food and keep the struggling business alive.
"This is a great place to shop," she said.
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