Monadnock Food Co-op Celebrates Expansion with Series of Public Events | Local News


The Monadnock Food Co-op began considering expanding their Keene store more than four years ago.

“It was really around 2017, we were just starting to get too big for our space, and we knew we had to do something,” said Michael Faber, general manager of the store, which opened at 34 Cypress St . in 2013. “It was I don’t know right away what it was.”

The co-op ultimately opted for a 6,700 square foot expansion, bringing the store to 19,900 square feet as part of a multi-year renovation. The roughly $ 10 million The project included the purchase of the property from Monadnock Economic Development Corp., which built the original facility for around $ 3.5 million and previously leased it to the cooperative.

The expansion – including larger indoor and outdoor seating areas, a new kitchen, more space for the co-op’s ready meals section, and more choice throughout the store – began in late 2019 and s ‘ended at the start of this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the co-op has waited to celebrate the grand opening of the addition until this week, with a series of public events scheduled from Thursday to Saturday.

“We really want to be a community hub, a community space,” said Jen Risley, co-op marketing director. “So just being able to celebrate together is going to make it real and allow us to really see the difference.”

The events, billed as the co-op’s “grand reopening celebration”, will include free live music from the Sharon, Massachusetts-based Willie J. Laws Band on Friday night at the amphitheater behind the co-op, completed. as part of the expansion; food trucks including The Traveling Taco on Friday and Yahso-on-the-Go on Saturday afternoon; and a variety of family activities and free tastings and demonstrations from local vendors.

“If we had a celebration, we actually wanted to be able to celebrate with people and not keep everyone at bay,” Risley said. “So, [we waited] until we can do it right, and still have it outside. So it looks like the expansion project has been over a long time ago, but to the public it may not even know it’s all over. “

But the expansion plan is no secret to cooperative members Carolyn Jones from Keene and Liz Ober from Dublin – friends who met on a warm sunny morning last Thursday at a table on the store’s renovated terrace. .

“I like him a lot,” said Ober. “… They did a great job.”

Although she said she hasn’t had much use of the new cafe yet, Ober said the new space is even nicer than before.

“It seems more open,” she said. “I’m really impressed that they did it and that it went really well.”

Jones, who became a member of the co-op about five years ago, added that she was amazed the co-op remained open and completed renovations during the pandemic.

Faber, the chief executive, said the pandemic delayed the project slightly, but construction essentially stayed within the store’s original one-year timeframe. The most time-consuming element, he said, was securing the funding, which came from a combination of a traditional bank loan, the federal New Markets Tax Credit program, and approximately $ 1.3 million in loans raised through a campaign with nearly 4,000 member-owners. (The loans acted as member investments, which the store will pay back in years to come.)

“It took several years to go through all the necessary steps, to put the funding in place,” Faber said.

But now, he added, the cooperative is already seeing the benefits of the larger store. The co-op hit its sales target of $ 17 million for the fiscal year ended July 1, including $ 6 million in sales of locally produced products.

“For our community, for buyers, we have significantly expanded offerings, and we are able to offer healthier food choices and support more local farms and producers,” Faber said. “Our local sales have increased significantly this year, with the expansion and addition of these products to our line.”

Risley added that the expansion has given the co-op more purchasing power and a greater ability to pass those savings on to customers with lower prices.

“So we’re kind of highlighting some of these price changes with new, lower price tags and things like that, just to let people know that this is one of the results of the expansion that was really. important to us, ”she said.

The cooperative also hired around 20 additional people along with the expansion, for a total workforce of around 120. Overall, Faber said, the co-op views the expansion as a great achievement.

“We had only been open for six years, but we already had [outgrown the space]”, he said.” And it’s really a testament to the community’s support for our cooperative. So finishing this project and being able to show it to the community is really important to us. “

Looking ahead, Faber said the co-op is still in the process of completing some minor elements of the renovations, including a community meeting room that is expected to be open within a month or so. Beyond that, the store plans to add solar panels to the roof of the addition, matching the original building, and to add an electric vehicle charging station next year to the parking lot, which s The east side of the building was extended by nine spaces as part of the expansion.

Ultimately, he said, the cooperative will continue to seek new ways to fulfill its mission and meet the needs of the community.

“We want to keep looking for ways to serve our community, provide healthy food choices and support local producers,” he said. “We want to continue to look for ways to increase this impact.”

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