Let's Own It Together!

Here is your invitation and call to action to be part of a community-based solution to a troublesome problem that has held our community back in so many ways for the last 12 years.  

The problem?  No fresh food in downtown Barre.  Since Grand Union went bankrupt and pulled out of Barre in 2001, we have had no affordably-priced, easily-accessible, full-service grocery store offering fresh food in or within walking distance from downtown.  Our community is technically a "food desert."  Now, that's a problem.  

It's a problem for hundreds of downtown residents with limited transportation options. It's a problem for workers and shoppers who want the convenience of shopping downtown.  And, it certainly is a problem for our community's economic vitality and overall health.  And, wouldn't it be nice to have some of the products you usually travel miles for available in your own community grocery store?  It's possible, if you become part of the solution!  

The solution?  Granite City Grocery! GCG is a community-based and entrepreneurial solution that pools the resources of many to create our very own downtown full-service grocery store. It's a solution that allows us to meet the need for fresh food in a way that is right for Barre without having to wait (...and wait) for someone else from somewhere else to do it. And, it's a solution that my family and I have chosen to be a part of.  I'm inviting you to participate, too.  

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Granite City Grocery is a proposed full-service grocery store to be located in or within walking distance from historic downtown Barre. The plan is to offer products that meet the diverse needs of Barre: the right mixture of conventional, natural and local foods sitting side-by-side.  It can be done! In fact it has been done in communities with demographics similar to Barre (White River Jct, VT and Littleton, NH).  Will it be a "food co-op"?  Yes.  Will it be an exclusive, expensive, specialty foods store? Nope. GCG will be owned by and controlled by the people in the community who want it and will use it the most.  Co-op is the business model; and because it's a co-op owned by the consumers, what goes on the shelves reflects our needs for affordably-priced, fresh food. Owner or not, you'll be able to shop.  But, not enough owners means no store to begin with!     

The only way to lift Granite City Grocery off the ground is to pool our resources.  We need 1,200 owners to transition from selecting a site (see below!) to opening a store.  Right now, we have 650 pledged owners that we are converting into actual paid owners.  So, we're about half way there!  I just purchased my owner share. I am proud to be part of this effort and believe strongly in its mission to bring "fresh food for all" to downtown Barre.  

What does it take to be an owner?  GCG has made it easy and affordable for folks on the tightest of budgets to participate.  You can even become an owner online!  The owner share is $200 per household with a variety of payment plans and payment methods available (as low as $10/month).  The owner share is not an annual fee or some sort of membership payment; it's your actual ownership share in the co-operative enterprise.  In return, each household gets one voice, one vote.  We have the right to run for and serve on the board and to vote on important issues that come before the ownership. And, like with other food co-ops, there will be financial benefits for owners (owner-only sales, patronage dividends when the store is profitable, and possibly other benefits like discounts for working). 

Where will GCG be located?  That's the question that seems to be on everyone's mind. Organizers received a grant last year that was matched by donations from over 100 community members to fund a market study. The market study was just completed in July 2013.  The consultants reviewed 7 potential sites in downtown Barre for appropriateness and competitiveness.  Now, it's the job of the board (with the help of other consultants funded by the same grant) to test the feasibility of each site and ensure that it meets our basic criteria: affordable, accessible, in or within walking distance from downtown, and financially sustainable! 

I decided to become an owner now because we know that GCG cannot secure a site without having enough owner equity in the bank to do so.  It's possible that if enough owners jump on board between now and the end of the year that a site could be secured as soon as this Winter 2013/2014.  Right now, if GCG stays on track it could open sometime in 2015.  That's actually fast for a food co-op!  I hope you will consider joining us to help keep GCG on track!

Want to learn more?  Here are a few links to additional information.  Don't hesitate to ask questions!  GCG is run by a volunteer board of 10 community members and supported by over 75 volunteers.  Questions are welcome and they always get back to you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this invitation and call to action!  Food is a really simple thing; we all need it. But, to get it, it has to be accessible and affordable.  There's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have a downtown grocery store. Instead of waiting for someone else to solve the problem, come join us in building the solution!  

Let's Own It Together!
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