Old Creamery in Cummington finally becomes a cooperative
JERREY ROBERTS The Old Creamery Grocery in Cummington Monday. The grocery is in the process of becoming a community-owned cooperative. Purchase photo reprints »
CUMMINGTON — After three years of planning, organizing and fundraising, the Old Creamery Grocery and deli now officially belongs to the community.
A cooperative made up of about 550 members purchased the property, business and inventory when the board of directors signed the deed Nov. 6.
“It feels terrific. It’s been a long time coming,” said Kimberly Longey, board president. “It’s just so exciting to know that as a community we came together, set out a vision and accomplished it.”
The store, topped with a Holstein cow statue, is a landmark in the Hilltowns at the intersection of routes 9 and 112. In fall 2009, co-owners Amy Pulley and Alice Cozzolino started working with other community members to create a cooperative to purchase and run the business.
Longey said the total cost of the project was about $1.3 million, 60 percent of which was funded through donations, member equity, grants and member-owner loans. The remaining $536,500 was provided by a loan from Florence Savings Bank, she said.
In addition to funding the purchase of the business and property, the hefty price tag covers a major renovation project that Longey said will make the popular community meeting place less crowded inside and expand parking.
The first phase of the project, which begins this month, is digging and pouring a foundation for an addition. Carpentry work is scheduled to begin mid-December and be completed by April, followed by the exterior work, such as expanding the parking lot. “Our goal is to get it completed by May because our busy season is July, August and September,” she said.
Long time coming
Longey described the three years it took co-op members to purchase the Old Creamery as a “long sprint.”
“I think that like any project that goes for a duration, there were periodic challenges of sheer stamina,” she said. “Especially in the last few months, when we had three or four night meetings a week.”
Raising the $1.3 million was not easy, she said, and the three-month process of transferring the liquor license to the cooperative was also trying.
“I don’t think they’re very familiar with cooperatives,” she said of the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. “That was a lot of energy, a lot of legal stuff, and a lot of driving to Boston in a van to sit through hearings.”
The next challenge facing the co-op is keeping customers coming through the doors while the renovations are taking place.
“It’s important for the community to know that we need people to support the co-op now more than ever,” she said. “This is not the ending, but really the beginning.”
The name of the store will not change, despite the change in ownership, although she said they will tack on, “your Hilltown community market” and “cooperative owned” after the name in some instances.
“We think it’s very important for people to know that some things are going to change, but a lot will not,” she said. “Being open and welcoming to everyone is particularly important thing we want to keep.”
One key step Longey said will help the store transition is the hiring of a new general manager, Karen Doherty. Doherty ran a similar co-op in Blue Hill, Maine, for more than 10 years, and is now learning the ropes from Pulley and Cozzolino.
“We’re just thrilled the creamery will be preserved and continue on better than ever,” Cozzolino said Tuesday.
“Amy and I are overjoyed about this, but it’s a mixed bag,” she added. “We’re going to miss having that daily presence in the community.”
She said the two will continue to be involved with the Old Creamery, whether as future board members, volunteers or just as customers.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.