The community meeting held Monday night to explain in more detail the reason that the Renaissance Community Co-op grocery store in the Renaissance Shops at 2517 Phillips Avenue was closing on Jan. 25 was a sad occasion with more than a few tears shed, but it was also surprisingly upbeat.
City Councilmember Goldie Wells one of the founders of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro what may be considered the mother of the Renaissance Community Co-op (RCC) told the standing room only crowd in the community room next door to the grocery store that they should be proud of what they had accomplished. She said. “We have come a long way in spite of what we are facing now, we have a lot to be proud of.”
She said that they started working on getting a grocery store for the community in 1998 and added, “Let’s not give up. Let’s be proud of what we have started. We will rise again.”
Some people were critical of the way the RCC grocery store had been run questioning why they didn’t advertise more, have more outreach into the community and that their prices were too high but for the most part people followed the lead of Wells and expressed sadness at the closing but pride in the accomplishment that the community had taken it upon themselves to join together and provide the community with a grocery store.
One person asked how much money it would take for the RCC grocery store to stay open and several board members explained that even $1 million would only keep them open for another year and in January 2020 they would be right back singing the same song.
Everyone who came in was given a handout which included the Renaissance profit and loss statement from its opening in October 2016 to December 2018 and in that time the grocery store lost right at $2 million.
The total cost of goods sold was $1,562,149 million and the total income from sales was $1,623,793. So the gross profit was $61,644. But the rent was $351,407 and personnel expenses were $1,185,453 and those were just the two largest expenses.
Guilford County Board of Education member Byron Gladden questioned why the personnel expenses were so high. RCC Board President Roodline Volcy explained that they wanted to pay their employees a livable wage and provide benefits. In keeping with that each of the employees will received four to eight weeks of severance.
Volcy explained that the way the store had been able to keep its doors open this year was with grants from Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC) but with those grants came a requirement that the RCC grocery store increase its sales, something that it had been unable to do.
Despite all the grants and gifts the RCC grocery store is about $1 million in debt and it’s biggest creditor, Shared Capital Cooperative, sent RCC a default letter in December which prompted the announced closing.
Some people had questioned why the RCC simply announced that it was closing rather than going to the Greensboro City Council, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and others to ask for money. As Volcy explained more money would extend the life, but the store was unable to generate the sales necessary to be sustainable.
A chart in the handout shows actual sales versus what was needed to remain solvent. The actual sales per month are all under $100,000 while the needed sales are except for the first two months in the $300,000 range.
The board made a tough decision, but it is unrealistic to think the store could suddenly triple its sales. In fact the sales except for a couple of blips have remained remarkably consistent. If they had showed a steady increase no doubt the decision would have been different.
One point that was made several times is that the RCC is working with its creditors, to have the equipment and fixtures stay in the store, to make it easier for another entity to move into that location and operate a grocery store.
It seems the RCC has proven that a store at that location can consistently generate $70,000 or $80,000 in sales a month.
The first RCC board president John Jones seemed to sum up what a lot of folks were feeling when he said, “We had a dream and our dream became a reality.”
The RCC grocery store is trying to sell everything in the store before it closes on Jan. 25. It started with a 25 percent off sale and is currently holding a 40 percent off storewide sale. If you’re looking for a good deal on groceries there isn’t a better place in town right now than the RCC grocery store.