In 2013, the Portland Food Co-op was still but a buying club with around 400 member-owners and no real plan for a retail space. Yesterday, while touring the facility that will soon provide local groceries at 290 Congress Street in the Rite-Aid Plaza, Cindy Hyman put down her $100 deposit, bumping the co-op to its goal of 2000 member-owners. Funding goals have also been met, including money from outside sources like grants as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of member-owner loans, which will be paid back with interest assuming the store makes it to the black. The store will be open to all shoppers, including non-member-owners.
The group has come a long way. The tour, the final one before an opening date is announced ("Soon," board members promised; "we'll definitely open this fall"), demonstrated that clearly. Produce coolers were running (perhaps to show that they really work?), shelving was nearly ready for stocking, and an enormous section of bulk bins was swathed in plastic in anticipation of loose beans, sugar, granola, and more.
Sustainability features were touted, including usable water which will be warmed by the heat produced by the large coolers - normally a waste product that requires additional air conditioning. Many of the features are a result of the co-op's partnership with Spark Applied Efficiency, a new venture announced this summer by Pat Coon and Fred Horch.
Board members promised to shout it from the rooftops when occupancy permits were issued and a grand opening date was settled upon; in the meantime, the Time & Temperature Building, which usually suggests "CALL JOE," announced "FOOD COOP" instead. Will the cooperative have what it takes to compete with Whole Foods and Hannaford's? At least 2000 shoppers are banking on it.