General Frequently Asked Questions

How does someone become an owner?

Ownership is open to anyone living in California. You just need to complete a brief application, read the owner disclosure statement, and submit payment online or by check. The one-time share cost is $200 per household with no annual fees. You can also pay in $10 installments for those who need to spread the share cost out over time.

Why should I consider becoming an owner?

Are you tired of driving out of town for groceries? Do you want to support local farms and local small businesses? Do you want a neighborhood grocery store with a great selection of fresh, natural, organic, specialty and sustainably-grown products? Do you want to shop in a store with friendly, knowledgeable staff? Do you want to keep your food dollars local? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you should become a SunCoast owner!

We need you, your neighbors, your customers, and your friends to join SunCoast today. The sooner we can demonstrate local commitment through community ownership, the sooner we can seek needed grants and loans, and the sooner the store will open! When the store opens, anyone can shop at the store, but only owners will be eligible to vote, receive owner-only discounts, and earn dividends in profitable years.

Who actually owns the store?

SunCoast is a community-owned and built grocery store. There are no outside investors or behind the scenes owners, it is literally a store built by the community coming together to build something amazing. Once there are enough owners, SunCoast will seek loans and grants to fund the remaining costs to open the store. Currently, decisions are made based on owner input given to our elected Board of Directors. Eventually a professional General Manager will be hired and will report to the Board.

When will it open and where will the store be located?

The opening date depends on how quickly we get owners. The preliminary timeline below shows some of the steps needed to identify a location and open the store. At 250 owners, the market assessment determined the best size for the store and possible locations; at 500 owners, we will begin site selection; at 600 owners, we will launch an owner loan campaign; at 700 owners, we will begin the search for a general manager; at 800 owners, we will secure a location; and around 1000 owners, we will open the store!

Why do we need a co-op?

There are many benefits to cooperative grocery stores including:

  1. Improved access to healthy, wholesome food
  2. Keeping food dollars local–From market data and our own survey, we know that thousands of residents in Imperial Beach and surrounding communities are doing some, or all, of their shopping at grocery stores — such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sprouts — that are miles away from their homes. In our survey of over 400 residents, 73% said they buy most of their food outside of their neighborhood.
  3. Providing a store that offers food and products tailored to local needs and preferences
  4. Supports local farms, producers and small businesses.
  5. Strengthens our community and local control of our food system
What's the difference between a co-op and a traditional grocer?

Food co-ops are owned by the community so the owners have a strong say in what is carried in the store. Prices are kept as low as possible since there are no investors or outsiders to pay. They also focus on education and supporting the local farmers and artisans so you will get a strong “local feel” when you shop. Co-ops are notorious for giving back more money to the community and paying better wages than traditional grocery store. They also offer more organic and natural products. Food co-ops are amazing community hubs with lots of action. If you want to see a food co-op in action, visit Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market (psst…they’ve been our mentors).

What types of foods and products will SunCoast sell?

SunCoast Market plans to source a variety of foods to serve the community. While there will be an emphasis on organic foods, practically speaking there will also be some clean and conventional items as well. Clean items refer to whole foods and minimally processed items. We think this will be a great way to balance availability and affordability for our shoppers. SunCoast also plans to focus on providing better access to local foods and products.

Will the food be expensive?

SunCoast plans to offer quality food at reasonable prices. In addition, like many co-ops, we plan to have a Healthy Staples program that will offer a variety of commonly used foods at, or near, cost to make each shopping trip as affordable as possible. Although some of the wholesome and healthy food sold at the co-op may cost a little more than highly processed or factory-farmed food, those costs can be offset by better health and fewer miles driven to shop out-of-town.

How can I help?

The effort to build SunCoast is “by the people, for the people” and we need lots of people power to open a community-owned store. The most important thing you can do is become an owner. The number of owners is equally as important as future grants and loans. Once you are an owner, there are many ways to get involved if you choose. We need help with community outreach, communications, fundraising, planning, committees, events, house parties and more. If you would like to help, please contact us at info@suncoastmarket.coop.

Can I join as an owner after the store opens?

SunCoast is a community-owned and built grocery store. In order for it to reflect the wishes of the community, we need owners speaking up as early in the process as possible. While you can become an owner at any time, wouldn’t you like to have a say in how it all gets built? Plus, the faster we reach our owner goals, the sooner we can open the doors to our amazing store. We need the financial foundation of our owners to move forward. Waiting just makes it take longer.

How does SunCoast raise the funds necessary to open a full service grocery store?

There are several ways that food co-ops finance the opening of a community-owned store. These include:

  1. Owner Equity– the money that owners pay for Ownership Shares
  2. Owner Loans– optional loans given by owners to the co-op with competitive interest rates
  3. Bank Loans– traditional bank loans
  4. Other funding– through foundations, community programs, grants, or other sources
What happens to my money if SunCoast doesn't open?

Although anything is possible, we are well into our growing stage that opening a physical store is the plan. We were very careful about evaluation and planning prior to taking any owners so that we could move forward with confidence. SunCoast also utilizes professionals throughout the process. Should something unforeseen happen and the ownership decides that it doesn’t want to open a store or it is no longer feasible, any remaining funds will be redistributed back to the owners. Again, this is highly unlikely at this stage as we have made remarkable progress but any investment comes with some risk.

As an owner, am I financially or legally liable?

SunCoast operates like any business when it comes to loan repayment and finances. Owners will not be responsible for any possible loan repayments or financial burdens. As a cooperative corporation, all liabilities remain with the store.

If I purchase additional owner shares, will I get more returns?

Purchasing extra shares will contribute to the store opening sooner but will not result in extra votes or patronage refunds (also known as refunds or rebates or dividends). Patronage refunds are paid based on how much you shop. The more you spend, the more you can earn. The Sporting Goods store REI is also a consumer cooperative that pays patronage refunds to customers.

Is SunCoast a non-profit organization?

No, it is a for-profit business that operates as a Cooperative Corporation. This type of business makes a profit but returns a portion back to its Owners as a patronage refund. Contributions to SunCoast are not tax deductible. SunCoast’s goal however is not to earn profits for its owners, rather the purpose is to serve its owners and the community. Earning a profit will be important in achieving our mission and vision statement as well as financing any future growth. If you would like to donate to SunCoast Market, there are circumstances where this is possible for a tax deduction using our fiscal sponsor. Please contact us to discuss these options.

Payment Plan FAQs

How does the payment plan work?

The cost of your ownership is $200. To account for the service fees for a secure monthly, auto-billed payment plan, you will pay $10.85 for 20 months.

What are the service fees?

While we do not charge interest, we pay approximately $17 in service fees for our payment plan. To avoid spending SunCoast Market funds, we need to pass the service fees back to the owner.

How do I set up a payment plan? And can I change it later?

When you complete your owner application, you select our $10 payment plan option from the list of payment choices. Once you submit your application, you are taken to a page to set up your auto-billing account. Each month you will be billed $10.85 (to include the service fee) on the select date. If you would like to pay your balance sooner or make additional payments you can do so through your account. If you want change the monthly billed amount to more than $10.85, you can contact us for an auto billing adjustment.

Is there a penalty for paying my balance sooner than 20 months?

Not at all. We want you to pay in a way that works for your budget. If you want to make additional payments to reduce your balance, log into your account and make a payment or pay the remainder of your balance. You will still be billed as usually on your monthly billing date.

Is my payment information secure?

Because your security is a priority, we have used a highly secure payment platform. We realize that service fees are annoying, but that is the cost of a secure system. We were not satisfied with the security of other less expensive options.

Do I have to pay the full amount before I am considered an owner?

Good news! You are a SunCoast Market Co-op owner after your first payment. That means you have the benefits of a yard sign, a vote, and the ability to volunteer or run for the Board of Directors just like anyone else who joins us.

Can I purchase additional shares on my payment plan?

At this time you cannot add additional shares to your payment plan. If you’d like additional shares to support the store, you can purchase up to 8 more but must pay in full. Shares can be purchased in our Online Shop.

I decided I would rather pay the full amount up front, how do I do that?

If you have not completed our Owner Application, you can do that now and you select your payment option of choice and check out. We offer cash, check, PayPal, debit, and credit options all on the Owner Application. There is a $7 service fee applied to those wishing to use a credit or debit card to purchase their $200 ownership shares.

If you have already completed the Owner Application and selected the payment plan option, but have now decided to pay in full, you can check out from our online store.

Who do I contact for questions about my payment plan account?

You can contact us at info@suncoastmarket.coop with any questions or to change the terms of your payment plan. You can also visit our payment plan providers page for a list of FAQs.