The plan for a food co-op store in Port Jervis was generously nourished by the thousands of visitors who attended the Port Jervis Fall Foliage Festival last weekend, according to Jeremy Shannon, of Deerpark. He proposed the idea earlier this year and had 30 “pledge members” by late in July--that is, people pledging to join the co-op when enough people have pledged to warrant incorporation. That moment may be near.
“We got an additional 120 signups from the festival,” he said. “We’re expanding our Steering Committee and will be aggressively pursuing incorporation and support from the national food co-op grocers network now that we have over 165 pledge members.”
The pool of interested people had already expanded so that a dozen people assisted with festival outreach. They made handouts and then chatted with curious passersby at the festival co-op booth, Shannon said.
“We had great discussions with interested community members. There’s a lot of excitement growing over having a future member owned grocery store cooperative right in Port Jervis's downtown in the next year or so,” he said. “In the meantime, we will work to connect with local farms to build out a supply network and continue outreach to achieve our goal of over 500 members to pursue the grants and funding needed to build out the store.”
Members could buy local and organic food at lower prices because of the quantities purchased for the co-op directly from producers and because store staffing would be reduced by co-op members working three hours monthly or paying a fee if unable to do so.
As for possible store sites, Shannon said, “We are deliberately not focusing yet on a specific store location other than to say that it will be located in or as near to PJ's downtown as possible. Since no owners can hold a site for us until we are ready, our efforts are on outreach, connecting with supply chains, resources, and identifying funding sources.”
To begin the co-op, 500 members would likely be needed, and thousands of customers, members and non-members, would be necessary to sustain the store, he said. He expects that opening a store will likely take two more years,
“Next year would be pushing it, but we might have a location picked out in the next year,” Shannon said. “Since none of us have done this before, we are all just moving one step at a time following the Food Co-op Initiative guidelines.” https://fci.coop/the-fci-guide-to-starting-a-food-co-op/.
However, before a store exists, the co-op may organize purchases from co-op supply lines that could be picked up at a central location.
“We have discussed that, and while we can't say for sure at this point, it will likely be important to add value for the early members while we all work towards creating the store,” said Shannon. “To get some form of community supported agriculture or boxed food that can be ordered for members at a discount would help keep interest up.”
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