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Amherst grocery co-op reaches membership milestone



Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 06, 2017

AMHERST — A cooperative grocery store in the planning stages for several years has reached a membership milestone that will allow its board of directors to pursue a market study to identify the best location for the future enterprise.

With the Amherst Food Co-op recently hitting the 300 member-owner threshold, the co-op will hold its second annual meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse, 121 North Pleasant St., from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The meeting will include voting in new members to the board of directors, updating the public on the status of the project and serving refreshments, including cake.

But before CDS Consulting Co-op embarks on the market study, likely in late summer or early fall, board president Alex Kent said the hope is to make the community aware that the co-op is seeking a site with 12,000 square feet, about 8,000 of which would be retail, and a minimum of 50 parking spaces.

“We’re interested in hearing from property owners in Amherst that meet the requirements for what we’re looking for,” said Felicia Sevene, a member of the board and Kent’s wife. “If there is a space available, we’d love to know about it.”

That size would make it smaller than River Valley Market in Northampton, but larger than Green Fields Market in Greenfield.

The consultants will examine three potential sites, proposed by the board, do site assessments and look into the context of a store in Amherst. While Sevene said the board would love to aim for downtown, there is worry about it forcing higher prices on customers.

“Economic accessibility is one of the key factors for us,” Sevene said.

Kent said the co-op would enter a long-term lease and be responsible for taxes and upkeep.

Sevene said the board has already spoken to some property owners, and had several sites suggested, and would return to the one the consultants say is the best location.

“If we have’t yet spoken to you, let us know,” Sevene said.

Anyone with a lead on a site can send email to amherstfoodcoop@gmail.com.

The annual owners meeting will feature a keynote speech by State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, and a presentation by Equal Exchange’s Cali Reed about the worker- and consumer-owner model. There will also be a volunteer jobs fair and a raffle at the event.

Sevene said this model gives more people a seat at the table and a stronger voice in decisions.

“We’re really encouraging members of the community to come forward and participate and join in and find out how they can contribute,” Seveme said.

Sevene added that the project is about social justice, food justice and resiliency.

“Getting involved in this project will make Amherst a better place, control over our food system and provide meaningful jobs to workers,” Kent said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.