Keeping Community Afloat with Grocery Deliveries
“Everything you need on the Island; if we don’t have it, please ask and we’ll do our best to get it for you!” That’s the motto of The Island Market & Supply (TIMS) on Swan’s Island, and owners Brian and Kathy Krafjack have lived up to it. Since opening in 2014, they have worked closely with the community to ensure that their store answered unmet needs on the island, and to provide fresh and varied supplies to residents. Now they’re ensuring that you have “everything you need” on the neighboring island of Frenchboro as well.
The Krafjacks always had big plans for their island business. In addition to serving customers on Swan’s, they looked for ways to provide more to more people.
“We did business planning, and realized there’s a limited market [on Swan’s Island.] It was always part of the plan to expand to Frenchboro; we just didn’t know how we would do it,” said Brian Krafjack.
TIMS store carries fresh produce, meat, seafood, prepared and packaged goods. The Krafjacks also run a concession trailer outside of TIMS that offers take-out meals including Pizza. Earlier this year, when the contractor delivering mail to Frenchboro resigned, Brian saw an opportunity to expand his business to Frenchboro. With a boat, groceries could be delivered from TIMS to the neighboring island along with the daily mail, so Brian started looking for financing for the project.
As an island business, it was important for the Krafjacks to build a strong relationship with a lender. With the seasonality of visitors to Swan’s, income to the store depends on the calendar and “a line of credit helps with unforeseen expenses in the winter,” said Brian. They worked closely with Machias Savings Bank since opening in 2014, building their credit and a strong reputation with the bank. Brian also learned about the Island Institute’s Island and Coastal Innovation Fund (ICIF), which focuses its investments on projects that promote community sustainability, and he started conversations with Economic Development Director Briana Warner, and the Chief Financial Officer Eric Waters.
Brian recalled that, after talking to Island Institute staff, “ICIF felt like a perfect fit; it was a logical choice.” For rural communities, a general store serves as a meeting place, where neighbors catch up on the latest news and learn about community events. When a store becomes seasonal or closes all together, the community loses some of its cohesiveness, as well as the security and stability provided by access to supplies. Island Institute understands the importance of a grocery store to the sustainability of a year-round community.
The Krafjacks communicated with Island Institute their mutual goal under ICIF and had demonstrated success through the ups of summer and downs of winter with Machias Savings Bank. This process helped ensure that the Krafjacks found lenders that understood their business and had their best interest in mind. “We partnered with both [ICIF and Machias Savings Bank] for financing,” said Brian.
Now, for the first time in many years, Frenchboro residents can get their groceries without leaving the island. Frenchboro residents can call, send a Facebook message, or email their grocery list as well as prepared foods from the concession trailer. Pizza is very popular, especially since it’s delivered hot. “I keep it down by the engine and it stays warm on the trip over,” said Brian. It’s these kinds of details that have made Brian’s grocery runs a huge asset to Frenchboro.
Currently, deliveries are only occurring within the FedEx and UPS schedule because of ongoing regulatory issues with the US Postal Service. Brian hopes that in the future he can again deliver the daily mail as well, which “worked well in the past, because islanders on Frenchboro knew to expect me on a daily basis.”
In order to get the right type of financing for your business, Brian advises that business owners “have a solid business plan, and keep rechecking that business plan, too.” By building on his already strong business plan to include his new expansion, Brian was able to effectively communicate his ideas to his lenders. The clear roadmap set by his business plan made the lending process go smoothly and quickly.
The Island and Coastal Innovation Fund supports community-focused entrepreneurs, invests in transformative business models, and purchases and reallocates assets that will ensure a diversified economy for the future of Maine’s island and remote coastal communities.
Resources for small businesses
Be well-prepared to seek financing:
- Contact us for free assistance with business planning ahead of approaching financing sources. We can also present workshops in your community.
- Review the Small Business Development Centers’ check list on financing.
- Watch SCORE webinars that cover financing options, alternative financing, and financing for start-ups.
Explore these financing options:
- The Finance Authority of Maine provides business loans for a variety of needs.
- The Small Business Administration provides loan guarantees in addition to technical assistance.
- CEI, Inc. provides targeted loans, as well as equity investments in qualified businesses.
- The Farm Service Agency provides loans farm or aquaculture storage facilities to qualified business owners, and provides loans for farm and aquaculture ownership or operating needs to business owners who are unable to access traditional loans.
- The Island and Coastal Innovation Fund supports coastal businesses with a focus on community and environmental sustainability. Those who qualify for loans and demonstrate a capital need in order to meet the ICIF impact metrics may also apply for Microgrants for Entrepreneurship and Community Impact.
What We Do
Commercial Currents is for island and coastal small businesses. To find archived editions, go to islandinstitute.org/blog/economic