Granite City Grocery says it’s ringing up support
By David Delcore
Staff Writer | January 15,2013
Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Planning and fundraising are moving forward for a downtown grocery co-operative in Barre. One possible location for the co-op is in the new City Place building at this site between the Paramount Twin Cinema and Studio Place Arts .
BARRE — Organizers of what would be a cooperatively owned grocery store in downtown Barre are brimming with optimism because they say the project continues to gain momentum and they are more than halfway to their goal for recruiting interested investors.
Thanks to a pre-holidays push, the group hit its target of 300 pledged members well before a self-imposed New Year’s Day deadline and the number now sits at 330, according to the chairwoman of the Granite City Grocery’s board of directors.
Emily Kaminsky said Monday she believes they’re sure to find 270 more people willing to invest $200 in a store that promises to sell fresh foods at affordable prices.
“We’re confident the support is there,” said Kaminsky, who is spearheading the project that was started by a small but growing group last summer.
According to Kaminsky, five months of community outreach has paid off, the membership drive is on track, and Granite City Grocery’s three-member board has branched out.
Two new volunteer committees are poised to start work — one of them later this week — as the project enters a key phase and the membership drive enters the home stretch.
According to Kaminsky, a steering committee will meet for the first time at a local church Thursday night.
Kaminsky said the group is composed of a dozen “champions and cheerleaders” for the project and includes members with a range of skills and backgrounds.
“Each person not only brings their passion for the effort to the table, but also their experience and community networks,” she said.
Kaminsky said she is a member of the committee, as are fellow board members Hollie Friot and Karen Lauzon. The broader group, she said, will take over responsibility for the membership drive and likely includes people who would be interested in running for seats on what will be a nine-member board.
“This group is kind of the bridge to what will be the member-elected board once we hit 600 (pledged members),” she said.
According to Kaminsky, the group hopes to wrap up the membership drive by April 1, though she said that deadline could slide some given the need to hold a formal membership meeting, elect a board, and launch a grant-funded market and feasibility study.
“It would be awesome to have (the membership meeting) in May,” she said.
While the steering committee focuses on recruiting prospective members, Kaminsky said a separate subcommittee, which includes some of the same members, will be working on a site selection process.
The store was initially proposed as a possible anchor tenant for the City Place project. Kaminsky said the committee will be casting a wider net when evaluating and ranking potential sites.
City Place remains an option, according to Kaminsky, who said the Blanchard Block won’t work, and the committee will be looking beyond the boundaries of Barre’s historic downtown. The stretch of the Main Street corridor between Fifth Street on the north end and Ayers Street on the south end will be considered, and Kaminsky said the committee wouldn’t necessarily rule out a Summer Street location.
“We’ve completely dropped any presumptions and assumptions,” she said, noting renting, buying and building are all possibilities.
“We’re trying to be as open as possible,” she said.
Kaminsky said parking, location and accessibility are key considerations and that the committee hopes to recommend three possible sites that can be evaluated by the consultant who will be working on the market study.
If all goes well, that study will be in hand by the end of the summer and the yet-to-be-elected board will determine how to proceed.
“We want to find the best location for a grocery store,” she said, acknowledging there is some urgency to the search given some of the movement that has started to occur downtown.
Kaminsky’s group has almost all of the $13,000 it raised in community contributions at its disposal as well as a $10,000 grant that will pay for the market study.
“We’re in good shape financially,” she said.
Although prospective members haven’t yet been asked to make their one-time $200 payment for an equity share of the store, Kaminsky said a system to accept installment payments could be in place by the end of the month.