The story of our co-op…
On March 9, 2011, Amanda Allshouse, Melissa Thompson, Sophia Briegleb, and Ricki Kelly sat around a table in Etai’s Café to discuss strategies to bring a grocer to the Northeast Denver metro area. As early as 2009, community members sought to recruit a natural grocer to the Eastbridge Town Center (MLK Blvd and Geneva Ct.) site that continues to sit vacant since its original scheduled opening in 2007 (although King Soopers is planning to move in soon). Members of the community reached out to every natural grocer in the state, including Alfalfas, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Lucky’s Market, Tony’s and Sprouts. However, none of these grocers expressed interest in the site due to the demographics and the number of rooftops in the 3 miles surrounding the site. It was on this day in 2011 that Amanda wondered whether a food co-op would be viable in this area of town. Almost on cue, Melissa Thompson slapped a 30-page concept plan for a food co-op with an emphatic “fwap!”
The plan seemed perfect for the area given that food co-ops are often formed when there is a need/demand that can’t be met through traditional options. In the spring of 2012, a formal survey was conducted in the Stapleton neighborhood regarding interest in a food co-op concept. According to the survey, organic products and locally grown products outranked all other product categories in terms of importance for our survey respondents.
Later in 2012, new resident Juli Pearson brought new energy to the co-op effort. Teaming with Amanda, the two presented the concept to the general community and convened a steering committee to revise the original business plan for the co-op.
The committee met with the developer of Stapleton during 2013 to discuss the possibility of building a food co-op to anchor the Eastbridge Town Center. Given Forest City’s commitment to build a King Soopers at that site, members of the steering committee began reviewing alternative locations in the Northeast Denver metro area.
In late 2013, Flightline Ventures, a development group that was also interested in the Eastbridge site and was in communication with the co-op, approached the co-op steering committee about the possibility of locating at the former site of Stanley Aviation (E. 25th Ave & Dallas St.) in NW Aurora. The 105,000 square foot building would be redeveloped into a mixed use office/retail center modeled after public markets in other cities. The location of the new site possibility infused new energy in the co-op and gave the steering committee a concrete location to advertise to potential members. Unfortunately that location wouldn’t be possible for the co-op for a number of reasons (mainly, they were looking for already established businesses, not start-ups), but the new energy was a necessary force in bringing things up to speed.
Throughout 2014, efforts to organize the co-op ramped up at lightning speed. In May 2014, Juli Pearson and Thomas Spahr presented the new co-op plan at a community meeting held in the Central Park Recreation Center. In June, the steering committee launched a fundraising campaign to hire a project manager and a lawyer specializing in co-ops. Meetings were held throughout the summer with like-minded organizations, community partners and civic leaders. Community support for the co-op grew exponentially as the vision became more public.
The Northeast Community Co-op Market incorporated as a Colorado cooperative in July 2014. On July 21, the co-op welcomed its first members. The initial six-week membership drive was highly successful, raising over $53,000 in equity from the co-op’s 268 founding member-owners. The initial drive allowed the steering committee and the co-op board to move ahead with a third-party feasibility study, and ability to increase membership drive. By the end of the year, the co-op had 575 members, nearly doubling the original membership drive.
Memberships continued to trickle in 2015, with the highlight being the second annual Rock the Co-op event where more than 2,000 people came out to support the co-op. The board held their first elections that summer and the first general meeting for members in September. In October, the board hired a new Project Manager to help jump start the progress of things once again. Shortly after they hired an Outreach Coordinator and with two PT staff members, progress really started to pick up. The year ended with a holiday party for members at Fiction Brewery and official member count at 695 members!
2016 was a pivotal year. With a new team in place we were finally ready to roll out many of the projects the Board had been trying to put together. We announced the name of our store and rebranded to Nourish Community Market. We launched the Nourish Fresh Food Program, a CSA-style food box program delivering pesticide-free food farm Colorado Farms to the heart of Stapleton each week. We re-started a monthly engagement event program for member-owners and those interested in the co-op, hosted the third annual Rock the Co-op, and got back to tabling at local events and farmers markets around the city. And of course, most importantly, we announced our location at 2352 Dallas St, across from the Stanley Marketplace. Our announcement came just before the Stanley opened for business and we ended the year happy knowing we FINALLY had a home, and a GREAT one at that!
Our big goals for the year ahead are to finally reach that elusive 1,000 member-owner mark and begin our capital campaign. We hope to raise up to $1.5 million from our member-owners which will enable us to break ground on our new development project and begin laying the bricks of our foundation… quite literally