Back in August 2009, some neighbors on the Montavilla Neighborhood Association Yahoo Group started to dream about the fate of a vacant building on SE Stark Street.
If we were in charge, what would we want to see there?
Some dreamed of a brewpub. Others, a tasty breakfast joint.
As we talked more, one idea in particular stood out:
a co-operative grocery store
People seemed to be really excited about the idea of starting a community-owned grocery in Montavilla. Seeing the interest take shape, one of the neighbors called a meeting and potluck at her house to discuss the idea more.
More than a dozen people attended that first meeting on September 13, 2009. Most of us had never met each other before. We learned about the steps involved in forming a co-operative grocery store and shared ideas about what we thought the Montavilla Food Co-op should include. Some envisioned a space where neighbors could gather and create community. Others dreamed about seed swaps, community canning kitchens, and a year-round place where Montavilla residents could access fresh, local, sustainable food and groceries. At the end of that first meeting, we decided to focus on two projects: longer term, we wanted to open an actual co-op grocery storefront. In the interim, we wanted to start a bulk food buying club that would provide us more immediate access to bulk natural food items.
A second, community-wide meeting was scheduled for October 19, 2009 at the Montavilla Methodist Church. Word had quickly spread about the co-op, and nearly twenty neighbors showed up at our second meeting. After a presentation by People’s Co-op about the steps involved in forming a co-op, participants broke into two groups and spent the remainder of the meeting developing one year timelines for both the food buying club and the storefront project.
Participants also volunteered to continue work on both projects by forming two independent steering committees that would do the work of moving us through the timelines we had created. We planned a follow-up meeting for December 7th, where our newly formed steering committees would report back on their progress.
In October and November, our respective steering committees began meeting regularly. Both groups recruited additional members to help share the workload. By December’s meeting, they’d made significant progress & were excited to share their efforts with the broader community.
The day of the meeting, December 7th, was bitterly cold and windy. Most sane people would have stayed at home, drinking cocoa in front of their cozy fires. Still, attendance at the community-wide co-op meeting exceeded all expectations, with nearly 50 people participating in the event. For the majority of attendees, this was their first meeting about the co-op.
In just a few short months, Montavilla residents have moved from “just talk” to action as we work together to build our co-op. Although we’re still 2-3 years away from opening an actual grocery storefront, 2010 promises to be a busy year as our project moves forward.
We hope you’ll join us!
Photo: (c) www.fotosearch.com Stock Photography