FUQUAY-VARINA — Wake County’s first co-operative community market is on track to open by 2015.
A recent feasibility study shows that western Wake County residents would shop at a co-op grocery store, which is owned by its members.
A community market would reach about $2 million in sales its first year and $3 million to $4 million by its fourth year, according to the study by California-based G2G Research Group.
The market could draw customers from the areas of Holly Springs, Apex and Cary, according to the study, which was paid for by a $10,000 grant from the Food Co-op Initiative.
“It’s what we already knew,” said market organizer Tammie Quick. “Now we have an expert saying it.”
Quick launched the effort in 2012 to create a local market that would sell fresh, organic produce. She was tired of driving to different farms all over Wake and Harnett counties for fresh food.
With so many farms within driving distance, it made sense to have a local venue that would sell local farm-bred beef, vegetables and other produce year-round under one roof, Quick said.
Unlike traditional grocery stores, a cooperative has members who pay a fee and take part ownership in the company. Customers don't have to be members to shop there, although members can get discounts, voting privileges and a share of the profits.
The Fuquay-Varina Community Market has 327 members – another major milestone in Quick’s time line. She is the chairwoman of the group. The cooperative had about 70 members last summer.
Membership fees are $150. The cost was $100 for the first 300 founding members.
Next up, the group is looking to grow its membership and raise about $500,000 as seed money for a 7,000-square-foot building to house a grocery store, Quick said.
The community grocery store model has proven to work at the two cooperatives in the Triangle. The Weaver Street Market in Carrboro has been around for 25 years. It has 18,000 consumer owners, more than 185 workers and four locations.
The Weaver Street Market has brought in more than $10 million in profits over the past three years, according to its annual report.
Chatham Marketplace opened about eight years ago in Pittsboro, an area with a smaller population than Fuquay-Varina, said Paul Griswold, general manager of the store.
Griswold, who is from Fuquay-Varina, said a co-op would likely succeed there as well.
“People that prefer to purchase natural and organic produce would prefer to buy it from a co-op if given the choice,” Griswold said. “They know the money stays in the community. Plus, you have ownership and an investment that you don’t get from a national chain.
“In Wake County, there is no co-op. It blows my mind that no one has thought to open one before now.”
The National Cooperative Grocers Association estimates there are more than 130 food co-ops in 37 states with combined annual sales of more than $1.5 billion.
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