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Published: The News & Observer, January 27, 2005

Author: Sue Stock
Staff Writer

Edition: Final
Section: Business
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 Marketplace.

"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 they want."

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 Raleigh Alliance.

"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.


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.

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