Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lovettsville has a Food Co-op!!

Press Release, January 18, 2011

The Lovettsville Cooperative Market organization passed an important milestone this week when it elected its founding Board of Directors, whose members then voted for officers and signed Articles of Incorporation that are being filed this week with the State Corporation Commission. This makes the co-op a legally established cooperative business under Virginia’s Law on Corporations.

Board members and their positions include Pamela Baldwin (Chair), Warren Howell (Vice Chair), Tiffaney Carder (Secretary), Michelle McIntyre (Treasurer) and Katrina Clayton (Membership Campaign Chair). All except Howell are Lovettsville residents; Howell is from Purcellville.

Following completion of its governance structure, the Board held its first formal meeting -- open to all Co-op members, as will be its practice -- and considered whether or not to take possession of either of two currently-available locations in Lovettsville in an effort move forward quickly toward opening its grocery store. Benefitting from the advice of two visiting experts on start-up of grocery cooperatives last week, the Board ultimately decided to focus first on building a strong capital and membership base while awaiting the expected development of Lovettsville’s Town Square commercial center. Stalled by the economic downturn, that center’s developer is now in discussion with a few potentially key tenants, according to NVRetail, Town Square’s leasing agent.

Last week, the Co-op’s predecessor group of “pre-members” received visitors associated with the Food Co-op Initiative, a Minnesota-based non-profit supported by the Blooming Prairie Foundation, which offers technical advice and counsel to co-op start-ups like the Lovettsville group. NCI director Stuart Reid told the co-op pre-members after visiting Lovettsville and meeting with community leaders (including Mayor Elaine Walker) that the community has the most important attributes needed for successful operation of a cooperatively-owned grocery store -- favorable demographics and economics, a vibrant farming base in the surrounding area, evident community interest in healthy food, and an obviously enthusiastic and engaged founding organization. He cautioned, however, against rushing too quickly into opening a store, advising the fledgling co-op to take the time needed for building membership and capital and making business decisions carefully. “Many groups take as long as three to five years to get up and running,” Reid said.

That has been the experience of the Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg, VA, whose Board chairman, Ben Sandel, joined Reid in the Lovettsville meeting. From a small group of enthusiasts who first came together in 2006 to form a co-op, Friendly City has grown to over 1,100 owner-members and is preparing for the grand opening of a 4,000-square-foot store this spring. How did they do it? According to Sandel, “we got our foundational references [from expert advice], which built confidence and credibility; we got lots of people involved to spread the work, reduce burnout and just make it more fun; [we held] lots of community events to spread the word and get feedback and validation; and we plugged into the [nation-wide] co-op community.”

“These are lessons from which our group can benefit greatly,” Baldwin said. “We will take our time and build a strong foundation before we leap into an active retail operation. We want to get this right, so it can really benefit our community and gain from the participation of as many people as possible.” The Lovettsville Co-op’s immediate priority will be continuing outreach to the community, in order to establish a broad membership and capital base, strong links to local food producers and ongoing efforts to identify the right location for the market. For further information, please go to

My personal take on this development:
I wish this effort all the success that the hard work that's been invested should bring it. My only caution is concerning overhead. The Lovettsville Square property was going for a demented $36 dollars per sq. ft. back in 2008. I truly hope the owners have realized the inappropriateness of this costly entrance, and scaled back to fit the economy of today.
Otherwise, this is a welcomed addition to the Lovettsville history of doing and building things within the Community. Congratulations to the Co-op!!


Lovettsville Lady said...

If it's going to take 4 years for a co-op to open, I sure hope that someone opens a grocery store in the town center sooner! But I'm not holding my breath since we've heard about a Town Center, with actual stores, since around 2002.

The Bulletproof Monk said...

I've explained this NUMEROUS times.
Back in 2008, when the market was still up, and money was no object, we still didn't rank high enough to obtain any suitors for a grocery store in Lovettsville.
Some people still think that because THEY moved here, grocery stores were going to follow them out here.
The study back then, wih all the houses in a 10 mile radius (more than generous, given that Brunswick is a mere 2 miles from us and has a functioning grocery store pand another one on the way at this writing-- and down the road 9 miles, Purcellville's 2 existing stores are being joined by a third in the near future)the need was a mere $19 Million in sales. That requires a store in the range of 40-50,000 sq. ft. The problem then, as now, is that nobody builds them that small, coupled with the zoning indications of a maximum store footage of 40,000 sq, ft, in that location.Add to that, there aren't even that many folks out here anymore. With the tumbling economy, foreclosures and fuel costs actually changed some folks minds, and they've moved closer to the city where they work rather than burn the gas to get there.

Anyone who lives in Lovettsville had better get used to the idea of shopping in Brunswick until the Co-op finds a home and gets more commitment money. A major grocery store chain has no interest in this community.

One of the tenets of living in a RURAL town is that you will drive to get where you want to go. It's not going to pop up because of the arrival of a few folks.
And with rent in the neighborhood of $36 per sq. ft., they ain't gonna beat a path to the Town Center's location to even open stores. I seriously hoppe that in negotiating space, the owners have dialed back that amount.

Lovettsville Lady said...

Get off your high horse. No one thought a "major chain" grocery store would follow them to town. The Town Center developers TOLD people that they would be building a grocery store.
You say that won't work, not enough people, yet, a co-op grocery store will do just fine? Makes little sense. Not enough people for a regular or gourmet grocery, but plenty for a co-op grocery store.
In 2008, I was never told that a grocery store would materialize in Lovettsville and would not have believed it if I had been told that since I knew people had been saying that for years. I'm happy to drive to Leesburg for Wegmans. But plenty of people, before my time, were told that the Town Center would have many stores and restaurants. Even the WaPo mentioned it, >>> The 200-unit development, which was to include an old-fashioned town square, bandstand, shopping outlets, a post office and the town's first grocery store, never quite came to fruition.<<<

Looks like some folks are still claiming that a Town Center and grocery store are coming!

Sorry that we burden you with having to repeatedly explain things to the ignorant, and those who foolishly believed what town developers told them. Good thing we have you to straighten us out!

The Bulletproof Monk said...

No high horse here. It's always the same old suspects spreading this stuff. I've run into it for a number of years now. It was at an especially high pitch during the election of the Mayor last year.

People lied, and the square died.
You've never seen the WaPO tissue paper lie about anything for underlying purpose? Or shoddy reporting(at least investigation) by whoever wrote that piece?

And Ryan Homes advertising one to sell homes??? Somebody get out there right now and tell them that they can't do that!!!! That's dishonest.

As a business model, this Co-op is not completely financed, yet. But it will never have the beaurocratic, or the sheer monetary overhead weight on it's back that the major stores do.

That's why it's a winner. Unless those sq.ft. rates are not trimmed and they build in an over-priced Town Square building.