Many of you, our passionate and caring customers, have leaned over the counter at Culinarium in recent months and asked me “how are you doing, is the business going well?” I know you care deeply about the health and sustainability of Culinarium, and I am grateful to you for your kind words, your encouragement and your honest feedback. To answer your question – Culinarium is struggling. Eater interest in local food is up, new folks walk through the door every day and sales have consistently climbed – but not fast enough. We are running out of time. My husband and I can no longer financially support Culinarium. To date we have not broken-even, and while our sales have always trended in the upward direction, they have yet to fully cover our cost of operations. Earlier this fall, we decided to close Culinarium once our lease is up – unless we saw some changes, a sign, or some sort of indication that we were meant to continue. And there have been positive signs!
We’ve actively pursued improvements, implemented several new processes, started participating in social marketing, increased our inventory and re-jigged our product offering. We’ve recruited an absolutely amazing group of women to work with us and sales were higher this fall then ever before. Culinarium received the Toronto Food Policy Council’s Local Food Hero Award in October and was invited to apply for the Premier’s Award for Agri-Innovation. Culinarium has been invited to speak on several occasions in the last few weeks about local food to audiences outside the traditional local food stomping grounds and we are seeing new folks walk through our door every single day.
The signs are positive and in my heart I know we can make a difference, Culinarium can fulfill it’s vision, we can change the way Ontario eats, but we can no longer do it alone. And so I am asking for your help!
Join Us. We are looking for 100 to 150 passionate folks to “share” in our dream and give us a boost to help lift us to the next level.
Much like our meat share and CSA programs that ask for an up front purchase in exchange for food delivered at a later date, we are looking for folks to invest in us, in exchange for groceries down the road (see below for details). This CSA based model of funding is not unheard of. We know of several farm based local stores like ours in rural Ontario that have used similar models to fund their businesses. Perhaps the best known example is Monforte Dairy whose CSA pays in future cheese. Like any investment there is uncertainty. I can’t guarantee that we will survive to see your groceries paid out but if enough of you step forward and we can raise the capital we need, then we promise to keep Culinarium’s doors open for at least another year, and work our tails off to turn one year, into two, into three, into 10, into 20.
I want to see Culinarium survive and thrive. Colleagues tell me all the time that we are ahead of our time, we are innovating a new grocery concept, one centred on community not commodity. We go the extra mile (literally driving to farms) to bring you great, local, artisan food and unique finds and strive to provide you good service by passionate people. After watching Food Inc, my husband turned to me with a horrified look on his face and said “if we close the business, where will we eat?” Eating daily from Culinarium’s offering has spoiled us to sensational foods made by exceptional artisans and farmers in a sustainable way. We can’t go back to conventional foods. There is no heart, no soul, no guilt-free eating in that realm.
A wise man and a dear business mentor of mine, Albert Plant, recently suggested to me “it’s time for a Peter Pan party – remember when Tinkerbell’s light was beginning to fade, and Peter Pan called out and asked the world to clap if they believed?”….. I believe – but my clapping alone will not save Culinarium. We need a crowd to clap along. Will you join us?
Goal: We are foraging for 100 to 150 hungry eaters who are as passionate about local food as we are. We’re offering grocery “shares” in exchange for a modest investment.
Support Culinarium through the lean winter months, help us grow the business and eat your investment in groceries down the road. Redeem your investment groceries between June and December of subsequent years.
Your up front investment of:
$500 = $600 worth of groceries over 3 years – that’s $200 per year.
$1000 = $1300 worth of groceries over 3 years – that’s $435 per year.
Based on the concept of a CSA, where many come together to offer a farm some financial security in exchange for the produce of the farm, Culinarium is offering you groceries over time in exchange for a vote of your confidence today. Invest before December 20th, 2010. Learn More >>>
With thanks and gratitude,
Kathleen Mackintosh, Founder, Culinarium