Editorial: Community rallies for Creamery
JERREY ROBERTS The Old Creamery Grocery in Cummington Monday. The grocery is in the process of becoming a community-owned cooperative. Purchase photo reprints »
Hilltown residents have had an informal ownership of the Old Creamery in Cummington for years — it is one of the prime meeting places in the rural area. But this month some members in the community became full owners, at least in part, when the venerable grocery was purchased and turned into a co-op.
The Old Creamery Cooperative had been in the works for three years when on Nov. 6 the co-op board of directors purchased it form Alice Cozzolino and Amy Pulley, its owners and operators for the past 12 years.
We think it makes sense for the community having a stake in the future of the long-time general store and cafe. This business is a Hilltown touchstone and should continue to reflect the needs and values of area residents. A co-op suits this vision.
The Old Creamery Co-op joins a growing list of Pioneer Valley cooperative markets. There’s River Valley Market in Northampton, Leverett Food Co-op and Franklin Community Co-op (Green Fields Market and McCusker’s Market).
The difference between food co-ops and other grocery retailers is that co-ops, quite simply, are member-owned. The Old Creamery Co-op has about 550 members who now have a say in how the creamery is run. Membership costs $150, which can be paid in installments. Co-op shoppers do not have to be members. Membership benefits include voting for and serving on the board of directors, access to the co-op’s future Patronage Dividend Program and discounts.
With new owners comes a new look. The Old Creamery is undergoing $1.3 million in renovations to make the gathering-place even more welcoming with less crowding and more parking.
Co-op leaders say that although there will be changes, the Old Creamery is going to hold onto its historic roots — actually, the creamery is coming full circle. The building started as a co-op in 1886, according to the market’s website.
In the late 19th century, the Cummington Cooperative Creamery was made up of a group of local dairy farmers who brought cream from the farms to be churned into butter. At its peak, the co-op had 145 dairies with members producing 20,000 pounds of butter per month. As technology improved and cold storage became more common in homes, the creamery became a restaurant and at times a general store. In 1988, the creamery took on the role it has today and became both a restaurant and general store.
With the community firmly backing the creamery, we hope it will continue to serve the public, both as a retailer and meeting place, for another 126 years.