By Ramona du Houx
December 29, 2013
Portland Food Co-Op, a member base cooperative grocer that uses their collective resources to buy local, fresh, organic food, is making a push to get more members so they can open a storefront.
They currently operate out of a warehouse Wednesday and Thursday nights. Members order food a week ahead of time online and then pick up their goods at the warehouse.
“Maine has five co-ops. It blows my mind that Portland doesn’t have one,” said John Crane, who was the assistant general manager at Rising Tide Community Market in Damariscotta for eight years and is helping Portland open its own version. “Our mission is to be accessible. Everyone who plays a role in the natural and local foods industry benefits. All of us.”
Portland Food Co-Op has 600 members and has been growing since Rachelle Curran Apse, the co-op’s storefront startup project manager, launched “Let’s Open the Doors” campaign.
The campaign aims to add more members by having each new member buy a $100 share and then spread the word to two of their friends.
The Cooperative Fund of New England approved a $330,000 loan for the co-op in September of 2013. Membership will need to match this loan, according to Curran Apse.
The co-op needs approximately $1,400 in order to rent a storefront to house an open market.
“We are confident with no question, we will reach the folks in the next six months to bring in new member/owners. We will raise the funds to have the capital to open the store,” said Curran Apse.
They are currently in negotiations with a landlord and hope to secure a space within the next four to eight weeks, according to Curran Apse.
The Portland Co-Op has been around since 2008 though they have not had a visible storefront.
They have been successful in building new relationships with local producers as 61 percent of their products were purchased from local producers last year, according to Tim McLain, the co-op’s operations coordinator.
They purchase from several farms across the state as well as from other local producers such as Oyster Creek Mushroom Co., Port Clyde Fresh Catch, and Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative, to name a few.
“Opening a store would attract a wider audience,” said McLain.
It gives a location for people to gather and support eating local without being profit-driven.
“As a co-operative the sole purpose is to meet the needs of our owners,” said Curran Apse. “They [larger markets] talk about local, but you don’t see it. We are supplying small farmers, we want to build the local food movement. We want to sell their stuff. It’s a space outside a farmers market that doesn’t exist.”
Members get a discount as well as a say in which products will be put on the shelves.
For more information about the Portland Food Co-Op, please visit portlandfood.coop.