Major grocery chains said “no.” So hundreds in north Aurora are making an organic food co-op.

Nourish article photofb

Originally published April 24, 2017 by Megan Mitchell in the Denver Post

Members of the new Northeast Community Co-Op are working to build Nourish Community Market across the street from the Stanley Marketplace.

More than 800 residents spread around the northeast metro area have joined a Stapleton-based food cooperative with the goal of building an organic and locally sourced food market in north Aurora, across from the Stanley Marketplace.

“This is a consumer-owned grocery store. We would purchase our food from local growers and source as much of our food locally as possible,” said Stapleton resident and chair of Nourish Community Market’s board of directors, Thomas Spahr. “Our concept came from a group of neighbors in Stapleton who got together in 2009 and wanted an alternative to King Soopers.”

But Stapleton alone doesn’t have a big enough community to viably serve an independent, full-service grocery store.

“We talked to Natural Grocers, Whole Foods and Sprouts about trying to come out to Stapleton, and none of them were interested,” Spahr said. “So, we decided to build it ourselves and make it something a little bit more inclusive of different neighborhoods like Park Hill, Northwest Aurora, Hoffman Heights and East Colfax.”

So residents formed The Northeast Community Co-op Market, which incorporated as a Colorado cooperative in July 2014. In 2016, members rebranded the entire co-op organization as Nourish Community Market.

Since then, the primary goal of the group has been to gather enough members and enough money to feasibly build a marketplace at 2352 Dallas St. The store would go on the ground level of The Heights at Westerly Creek Village, a planned mixed-use condo development. Today, that land is an auto lot that is owned by one of the co-op members.

“We’re a ways out from breaking ground yet,” Spahr said. “Right now, the co-op has an agreement for that space that is contingent upon us getting our financing in order. We still have time to get there, but we’re exploring what it’s actually going to take to raise enough money to build in this location.”

Right now, the co-op has about [820] members. Each member’s initial buy-in is $200. That money will go toward building about 40 percent equity on the overall $4 million development cost of building a 10,000-square-foot grocery store from the ground up.

“I was in Idaho before we moved to Aurora two years ago, and I grew up with a co-op just a couple blocks down the street — the Boise Co-op,” said Carolyn Pace, Nourish Community Market member who lives near the proposed market site in northeast Aurora. “I always thought that every community had these, so it was interesting to move to such a big city and find out that there’s no co-op here.”

Organizers for Nourish Community Market are targeting Stapleton and northwest Aurora as their service zone because the communities are what members call food deserts; places devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy whole foods.

“I think of the area more as a food swamp than a food desert,” Pace said. “There are a lot of options, but it’s kind of a glut of unhealthy choices. It can be challenging to find a nutritious, affordable meal on East Colfax. I think providing access to those kinds of foods is a needed thing in this area.”

In 2016, the co-op launched the Nourish Fresh Food Program, a food-box program delivering pesticide-free food farm Colorado Farms to the heart of Stapleton each week.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is develop a model that works,” Spahr said. “The grocery business is a difficult market to succeed in for startups, especially produce, but we’ve contracted with consultants who have done this many times over throughout the nation. It’s financially challenging, but it isn’t anything that any small business hasn’t overcome. And this is something that the community really needs.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *