A group looking to form a Manchester-area food co-op plans to take over space at Harvest Market in Bedford once it raises another $1 million, bringing in more organic and locally produced foods.
The co-op hopes to begin operating at the Route 101 location by early September, according to Sarah-Marie Cole, president of the Manchester Food Co-op’s board of directors.
Stiffer store competition, including the arrival of a new Whole Foods store in Bedford later this year, had the owner of Harvest Market rethinking its strategy there.
“We felt quite frankly that in order for this store to be successful going forward, we needed to change the format of the store,” said Michael Bourgine, president and CEO of Associated Grocers of New England, which has about 300 member stores and has owned Harvest Market since 1989.
Cole said the co-op will thrive at the Harvest Market location.
The co-op is “member-owned; there’s community programming,” she said, noting that 1,067 members have paid $100 each to join. “It’s deeper roots into our local community.”
She said the nearly 20,000-square-foot store will stock more locally grown and produced items.
Other planned changes include expanding the cafe and constructing a larger prepared-foods section as well as adding bulk items, supplements and health and beauty products.
The 50 current store workers are “welcome to stay” with another 15 to 20 employees likely to be added, Cole said.
Taking over an existing store required the co-op to raise only $2 million in startup capital costs compared to $4 million it would have needed to build from scratch. It has already secured $1 million through donations, grants, an inventory loan from Associated Grocers, member equity and a bank loan. It will need to secure another $1 million through loans from its members to take over the store, according to the co-op.
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