Published: The News & Observer, January 27, 2005
Author: Sue Stock
Page: Page: D1
Two food co-ops in the works
Efforts to open two co-op food stores in the Triangle are gaining
ground, and both may be open within a year.
Co-ops in Pittsboro and downtown Raleigh are both in the works,
though the one in Pittsboro is closer to opening.
Lease negotiation is in the final stages for a 5,000-square-foot
site in Pittsboro, said Melissa Frey, project manager for the Chatham
"It's very unknown how long that process may take, but we
could be open in late summer or early fall."
So far, the board overseeing Chatham Marketplace has raised $134,000
of its $200,000 target and has 584 owner households.
Co-ops, which traditionally focus on local produce and organic
food, are open to the public but owned by members who pay a fee
to help fund the store. Owner-members typically receive a discount
or special member designation in exchange.
The Pittsboro co-op is accepting applications for the general manager
position and will include a bakery, sushi and salad bar, and a meat
department, Frey said.
In downtown Raleigh, the board overseeing the development of the
Raleigh Food Co-op is tentatively planning an early 2006 opening.
But organizers must still find the right site and raise between
$1 million and $1.5 million in start-up capital.
"There's been significant progress," said JiNan Glasgow,
leader of the co-op's board. "It's just a question of fund
raising at this point."
The Raleigh Food Co-op will stock locally and organically grown
produce as well as some gourmet items and prepared dishes, Glasgow
said. There also will be courses on topics such as cooking and nutrition.
Most of the 100 members who have joined so far live or work downtown.
"Clearly, the members would be those who are shopping there
predominantly, even though it will be open to the public,"
Glasgow said. "That gives us a big advantage because you know
in advance that you have a customer base and they are getting what
Fund-raising for the co-op will begin soon, targeting both individual
donors and corporations.
"It's very realistic to think we'll have a store in the next
12 months," she said, adding that the group may consider a
business loan to cover some of the start-up capital needed.
Several locations are being considered, said Ann-Cabell Baum Andersen,
a real estate agent with White Oak Properties in Raleigh and a member
of the co-op board.
Ideally, the spot will be about 5,000 square feet with plenty of
parking, Baum Anderson said. Being considered are some downtown
sites and the 18-acre Raleigh Bonded Warehouse property on Capital
Boulevard slated for redevelopment by Greg Hatem. "I feel confident
we'll find them a place," Hatem said.
There have been some previous attempts at co-ops in the past, including
Noah's Food Co-op, which closed in Raleigh in 1996 after 21 years
because of slumping business and overwhelming debt. But Glasgow
pointed to examples such as the Durham Co-op Grocery and the Weaver
Street Market in Carrboro as co-ops that thrive.
"People plan to go to the one in Carrboro," she said.
"It's a destination, and that's what we're hoping for."
Downtown grocery stores face stiff competition from the farmer's
market in the City Market, the State Farmers Market and stores in
Cameron Village, said Margaret Mullen, president of the Downtown
"I think it's a good idea," she said. "But I'm not
sure about having the residential base to sustain it. I'd like to
see if it works."
There is definitely a market for co-ops and fresh food stores,
including national chains such as Whole Foods, Frey said.
"People are becoming more and more aware of what they eat
and where their food comes from," she said.
WHAT IS A CO-OP?
Co-ops are owned by members who pay a fee to help fund the store.
Owner-members usually get a discount or special member designation
in exchange. The stores are open to the public and traditionally
focus on local produce and organic food.
Caption: A co-op is considering a warehouse Hatem plans to redevelop.