Co-op grocery store will locate in new Aurora mixed-use development

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Originally published October 27, 2016 by Monica Mendoza in the Denver Business Journal

A group of residents from the Stapleton neighborhood announced plans to open a community-owned natural grocery store in Aurora’s Westlerly Creek Village development.

Plans are underway for a 10,000-square-foot co-op called Nourish Community Market that will be on the ground-floor of a new mixed-used development, The Heights of Westerly Creek, at 2352 Dallas St.

Nourish Community Market will locate in Aurora’s Westerly Creek development, at 2352 Dallas St. The new development project will include for sale condos above the Co-op and other retail outlets.

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Nourish Community Market will locate in Aurora’s Westerly Creek development, at 2352 Dallas St. The new development project will include for sale condos above the Co-op and other retail outlets. COURTESY OF ROGUE ARCHITECTURE

Co-op grocery stores were popular in the 1970s. But the last one in metro Denver, the Common Market, closed in the 1980s, said Kim Soko Schaefer, spokeswoman for the co-op.

Meanwhile the rise of natural food grocery store chains began. But when the group of Stapleton neighborhood residents approached Whole Foods, Sprouts and other natural food grocers for a store in their neck of the woods, they were told there were no plans to open stores in that area, Soko Schaefer said.

“So, we said, let’s do it our selves,” she said.

Now, there are plans for three co-op grocery stores in metro Denver – Westwood Food Co-op, expected to open this year, and West Colfax Food Co-op, which has just incorporated and is in the planning stages.

“Food security was identified as a most pressing concern,” said Thomas Spahr, chairman of Nourish Community Market. “This is part of the response. People are taking action.”

The Nourish Community Market co-op group has been quietly working on the plan for two years, since it incorporated. Nourish Community Market now has about 775 founding members, each who anted up $200. Now, the group is on a membership drive to double.

The co-op is planning a capital fund-raising drive with the target goal of $1.5 million and a store-opening date in 2018.

“Truly, it will be a unique space and have a different focus than any grocery store in the metro Denver,” Spahr said. “We will be competitive from a price stand point. What we are going after is having more flexibility to work with small farmers and local producers.”

Co-ops are a centuries-old business-model catching a new wave of interest. They are businesses owned by and operated by employees or by those using the services. Profits and earnings are distributed among the members. And members have voting power in the business.

Today, there are very well known co-ops, including Ace Hardware, a retailers’ co-op, and REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), a consumer co-op.

Nourish Community Market is designed like the REI model, Soko Schaefer said. It’s a business model that keeps true to a mission of bringing fresh foods to the city, but it will be business- and bottom-line focused, she said.

“We’ll be competing head to the head with Trader Joes andSprouts and Whole Foods,” she said.

Monica Mendoza covers banking and financial services, legal services, the economy and economic development, and sports business and contributes to the “Finance & Law” blog. Phone: 303-803-9230.

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