There is another thread out there speaking to NCM's decision to stop selling to homebrewers (http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=3359.0
), I've started this new topic to discuss the possibility of starting a bulk ingredient co-op in the North East (centered around Philadelphia)...
My friends and I put together an order for 1400#'s early spring and was very, very pleased with NCM and their service/help ( Although my wife wasn't too happy with the huge stack of malt sacks taking up half of our garage). However, with the flat shipping rate combined with the near wholesale prices, we found the experience extremely economical (to say the least).
As I was organizing the effort it dawned on me that this could constitute an excellent co-op. If we could find enough interest to make mass purchases on at least quarterly basis it could benefit everyone (especially for purchasing spec grains). I think that the key ingredients to the success would include:
> Setting up a traditional co-op and obtaining a tax-id. I'm glad that NCM has agreed to continue working with homebrew clubs that have done business with them in the past, I wouldn't want to bet the farm on it continuing. In addition, with a business license the co-op could consider other wholesalers.
> Shipping costs is one of the major elements of most of our bulk purchases and we should avoid adding additional shipping to get it to folks home. Ability and willingness to pickup is key to this.
> Volunteers - typically a co-op is an organization where the participants share the costs equally (or almost) and the effort. I can tell you from experience that organizing the purchase, locating a drop point, breaking down the pallet, making and tracking financial arrangements, breaking down the grain etc... takes a lot of work. The co-op should include a strong volunteer base to keep it moving and keep the costs low.
> Enough interest to sustain at least 4 bulk orders per year. This should be enough to get the wholesalers interested and willing to work with us.
I'm located 10 minutes from Philadelphia in NJ.
> What kind of interest is there (locally) in helping me set this up and run it?
> Does anyone out there have experience setting up a co-op? How difficult was it? What should we look out for?
> What did I miss? Any other key ingredients in getting this going?
Advice and criticism gladly accepted.