The Co-op receives between 5 and 20 deliveries a day, mainly between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Those numbers are similar to other grocery stores – but they don’t tell the whole story. The Co-op has a strong and longstanding commitment to support local farmers and food vendors who provide healthy foods and prioritize environmental sustainability.
We receive deliveries from 204 different local producers. Buying local helps to reduce the resources required to transport food long distances including refrigeration, fuel, and increased packaging. We also have some large vendors, who deliver products in bigger quantities that help us offer affordable prices.
We work with our vendors to schedule deliveries for “windows” that ensure we get fresh products to the store during hours that are least disruptive to our operations. Each vendor has many factors that dictate their daily delivery route and timing window. The factors include the size of the vendor and truck, the type and source of the products being delivered, the delivery locations each vendor must accommodate, traffic patterns, and more recently, the challenges presented by the pandemic. For example, bread and fresh produce is delivered daily as it should be.
The window for our smaller vendors may be wider and more dependent on the needs of their small businesses. To avoid multiple truck deliveries from our many small vendors, we work with them to coordinate and consolidate their deliveries. Our large vendors, in contrast, generally schedule their deliveries in advance, for specific times. It is one of the regular challenges of running a grocery store to work with both our large and small vendors to maximize the efficiency of our deliveries.
Why Does the Co-op Need Deliveries from Large Semi Trucks?
The Co-op orders from three important vendors that only utilize semi trucks in their fleet. Four Seasons and Albert's deliver fresh produce and refrigerated product up to 6 times per week. Without these vendors, the Co-op could not get organic produce that meets our standards, and provides year-round variety required to meet customer expectations
UNFI delivers 4 times per week and provides the majority of the center store Grocery, Wellness, Frozen and Refrigerated products sold at the Co-op. All told UNFI products account for over 60% of sales. Our agreement with National Cooperative Grocers mandates that we purchase from UNFI in order to receive volume discount pricing to stay competitive in a difficult market. Without this contract, the products at the Co-op would be much more expensive.
Why Can’t the Co-op Take Deliveries in the Sycamore Parking Lot
At the time the store moved to Takoma Park in 1998, sales were roughly $5m per year, or $96k per week. Even at that volume, the City felt the Sycamore lot staircase was not an acceptable place for delivery activity.
Now the Co-op is a $10m business and orders $200k worth of product weekly. We receive up to 100 different deliveries per week.
Circulation studies done on various vehicle types that would deliver to the store found to be either impossible in certain cases, and dangerous in others. Some trucks would not fit at all through the narrow lot. Others would require maneuvers to settle in front of the staircase that would involve leaving the lot and backing in the exit. WB50 Turning Radius Sycamore
The circulation studies showed 30ft box trucks or larger could not utilize the Sycamore parking lot for delivery activities. This alone prohibits 66 of 207 deliveries from a two-week delivery survey in Sept 2018. These larger vendors with bigger vehicles represent an outsized portion of Co-op sales.
Loading activities closer to residential homes and requiring neighborhood circulation upon completion was dismissed as an option when a much safer option existed in the City-owned Junction lot.
Beyond vehicular challenges, the Sycamore lot, staircase and internal layout on the East side are not equipped for the weight and movements required to get pallets or even handtrucks and carts of product inside the store. The Co-op has invested heavily in the internal West side delivery area and has a ramp built and maintained to withstand these activities. At no point has the Co-op ever considered the Sycamore lot acceptable for delivery activities.
For delivery survey data, click here.