Downtown Co-ops Gaining Momentum

Apr 5, 2014

Parallel efforts to open downtown cooperative grocery stores in two Central Vermont downtowns are taking off, according to those involved. Both Granite City Grocery, in Barre, and the Morrisville Food Coop, known as MoCo, are poised to hire their first employees in an effort to attract enough founding members to open stores. Meanwhile, both groups are holding events and reaching out to potential member-owners.

Granite City Grocery currently has just over 400 members. The coop has set a goal of gaining 200 new members by June 30. That would boost the effort up from the organizing stage to "feasibility" in the group's organizational timeline. The ultimate goal is to have 1,200- 1,500 members by the time construction of a downtown store begins.

To that end, Granite City Grocery is hiring a part-time Outreach Coordinator. The group is also hosting community events to help spread the word and sign up new owners. The next event will be held on April 16, at 6:30 p.m., at the Quarry Grill and Tavern in Barre. The following morning, at the same location, Granite City Grocery will host a breakfast update for owners and downtown merchants and employees.

"The first event is part of Cooperative Vermont’s Co-op Socials Series and will highlight how area cooperatives have contributed to the success of Granite City Grocery’s startup efforts," said outgoing Granite City Grocery Board President Emily Kaminsky.

Meanwhile, about 30 miles north, MoCo organizers are in a similar situation. Existing members are spreading the word by throwing "MoCo house parties." And the coop is hiring a part-time Membership Recruitment Coordinator, with a similar job description to Granite City Grocery's Outreach Coordinator. MoCo has been collecting membership pledges, soon to be converted to paid household memberships. The group currently has nearly 500 pledges, with a goal of 1,000 paid memberships by the time a store opens.

Neither group has identified a store location, other than to say it will be within the downtown. It is the start-up equity garnered through memberships that will dictate the projects' budgets and, ultimately, their locations.