River Valley Co-op opens new store in Easthampton

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  • Katherine Thompson, from left, Levon Kinney and Rob Schark prepare the display area in the wine and cheese department at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Route 10) in Easthampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Solar panels are being installed over the parking area at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. Solar panel installation is already complete on the roof of the store. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    "SHade sails" cover much of the outdoor seating area at the front of the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton. Photographed on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The entrance to the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joshua Crone, with National Co+op Grocers, stocks a fruit display at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. NCG is an organization that helps food co-ops with their operations and marketing. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jimmy Zilaro, left, meat department manager at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton, meets with Gary Johnson, second from left, and Dan Hein, of National Co+op Grocers, and employee Guylain Ngoy, right, on Monday, June 28, 2021. NCG is an organization that helps food co-ops with their operations and marketing. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • River Valley Co-op General Manager Rochelle Prunty, right, talks with Leslie Swartz at the sandwich and bistro counter of the new store on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jimmy Zilaro, left, meat department manager at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton, meets with employee Guylain Ngoy on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Samuel Bennett prepares a batch of avocado whip in the kitchen of the prepared foods department at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Liesl de Door, store manager of the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton, meets with employees in the indoor cafe area at the front of the store on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton features seven electric vehicle charging stations with 14 hookups. Photographed on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • River Valley Co-op assistant operations manager Andy Stolarik works in the bulk foods aisle at the new store on Northampton Street in Easthampton on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • River Valley Co-op general manager Rochelle Prunty addresses a brief meeting of employees at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Solar panels are being installed over the parking area at the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton on Monday, June 28, 2021. Solar panel installation is already complete on the roof of the store. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • ">

    "Shade sails" cover much of the outdoor seating area at the front of the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton. Photographed on Monday, June 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Liesl de Door, store manager of the new River Valley Co-op in Easthampton, meets with employees in the indoor cafe area at the front of the store on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2021 8:27:56 PM

EASTHAMPTON — River Valley Co-op opens its doors to the public on July 1, bringing with it 83 new jobs and establishing itself as the city’s second grocery store. 

The co-op, situated at 228 Northampton St., is the second location of the collectively owned grocery store, following the success of the original River Valley Co-op at 330 North King St. in Northampton. The Easthampton co-op will open on Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The Northampton grocery store is “always really busy,” said River Valley Co-Op General Manager Rochelle Prunty, and the Easthampton location will help to take pressure off that store.

Easthampton felt like a natural fit for the store’s second location, said Dorian Gregory, president of the co-op’s board of directors.

“A lot of folks who were shopping at the Northampton store were coming from Easthampton, Westhampton, Southampton, Holyoke — the areas around Easthampton,” Gregory said. Easthampton was “not too far away from the Northampton store, but far enough that we could reach a new community, and reach a new community more deeply,” she said.

Prunty anticipates that the Easthampton store will initially attract about half the amount of business done at the Northampton store and ramp up as time passes. Overall, the business expects a 30% increase in sales, according to Prunty, and a resulting 30% increase in local purchases. 

The co-op currently works with more than 500 local farmers and is “looking to increase our sales from our current local producers, and also add some new local producers as well,” Prunty said.

This focus on locally sourced produce helps make the co-op an attractive place to work, according to Prunty, in addition to a strong employees union. While many employers around the country are having difficulty attracting applicants, Prunty said the co-op quickly filled 83 positions at the Easthampton location.

“People like to do meaningful work, and they like to be involved in the community,” Prunty said. “These are good union jobs in an organization that shares the values of the community that we’re working in, so I think people like to do work where they feel like they’re making a difference.”

Positions start at $15 per hour and go up on a wage scale from there, according to Prunty. The store employs 175 people at its Northampton store.

Local and state leaders are welcoming the second location to the community. Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said that the city is “thrilled” to see the 83 union jobs with “good pay and good benefits” coming to the city.

The only other grocery store in Easthampton is Big E’s Supermarket, which has been in the community since 1977. LaChapelle said she expects the two grocery stores will each fill their own niches and complement each other well.

“I think there was some concern that they were going to compete against each other,” LaChapelle said, “and we’re kind of seeing a clear line about where to get what, and the affordability will be very comparable, so it brings people into the city and keeps them in the city.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal paid a visit to the new facility on Monday for a tour before the grand opening. Neal previously assisted the co-op in securing $15 million in tax credits for the project.

As a co-op, River Valley is completely owned by its members. Each co-op owner receives one equity share and a single vote in decision-making for their $150 investment, though anyone can shop at the grocery store regardless of whether they are a co-owner.

The co-op has around 13,000 members, with around 1,000 of those owners joining since construction began on the Easthampton location last year. The original River Valley Co-op opened in Northampton in spring 2008 with 2,000 owners. 

The Easthampton location is slightly larger than its Northampton counterpart and includes a substantially larger parking area. Solar panels built over the parking lot and on the building's roof will generate over 900 kilowatts of power, providing most of the store’s electricity.

The location will also feature a substantial outdoor eating area and some indoor seating. Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack, which leases its currently vacated permanent location from the co-op, will finish out its 2021 season at its temporary location in the parking lot of the former Cernak Buick building at 102 Northampton St. The seafood restaurant will reopen next to the grocery store next year and share the outdoor seating area with the co-op.

Looking to the future, Prunty said that the new Easthampton store “is going to keep us busy for a while.” But with community needs growing and co-ops trending around the country, Prunty said that “as time goes on, if our store in Easthampton gets very crowded and we’re ready to take the co-op to other customers, we’d definitely look to open another store.”

“But I think we’re a ways away from that,” she noted.

Gregory also emphasized the significance of the store’s co-op model.

“We own it as a community, and that’s really special,” Gregory said. “It means the co-op isn’t going to go anywhere. When the times are tough, the co-op is still there. When times are good, if there’s a little bit of a profit to share, it gets shared in the community with all the people who own it.”




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