Weekly Feature

2017-12-06 / Front Page

Williamsville Co-op in development stages

Community market would sell local goods
by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

In April, a small group of Williamsville residents met to begin a new endeavor: creation of The Williamsville Co-op.

With the tutelage of other area food cooperative boards, including the Lexington Co-op in Buffalo and the East Aurora Co-op, the group has put together plans for a collectively owned community grocery store to be located in Williamsville.

Jim Walfrand is president of the five-member Williamsville Co-op board that also includes Ariana Martinez, vice president; Julie Yates, secretary; and Emily Murphy, treasurer.

Other board members leading the co-op are Lynn Schwab, who co-founded the Williamsville Farmers Market; and Al Yates, who is a trustee of the Williamsville Village Board.

Walfrand said a co-operative food market promotes healthy living, providing many products that are sourced from local farms and producers.

“A co-operative grocery store open all year round will have local foods, prepared food and allow for healthy eating,” Walfrand said. “It will be a full-service grocery store. It will boost job creation and have as much local items as possible.”

He said shoppers would be visiting the market not only to purchase groceries, but to “also have an experience.”

“We’re not only being a community grocery store, but we’re also helping local farmers and nutritional endeavors for local schools,” Walfrand said.

He added that part of the experience of visiting what could be an approximately 6,000- to 10,000-square-foot market would be provisions for people studying to be chefs who can cook meals at the market. Walfrand said the co-op would also be a place for the community to gather.

According to Walfrand, the board has identified a site for the co-op within the village. He added that because it is in the initial stages of the co-op’s development, the board is unable to disclose the market’s possible location.

Currently, the co-op founders are working toward financing a market feasibility study.

The market study — which Walfrand said would be conducted as soon as enough funding is available — will review such data as the area’s population and its density, the village’s proximity to nearby food stores, and local traffic. Walfrand said the study would take about three months to complete.

As part of the structure of a food co-op, individuals can become member owners, allowing them to pay a small amount to purchase a share. Individuals must be state residents and at least 18 years old.

The cost to become a member of the Williamsville Co-op is a one-time, lifetime membership of $150. There are no annual fees, and each membership belongs to a specific household.

Becoming a member-owner provides those individuals with discounted prices on items sold at the co-op. However, a person can shop in the store without being a member.

“All of our members have a say in how the co-op is run, and it leads to empowering the people in the community,” Schwab said.

In addition to capital through memberships and donations, Walfrand, who has a background in finance, said additional funding for the co-op could be gained through state and federal grants, preferred stock and membership loans.

According to Walfrand, it may be several years before the co-op is brought to fruition.

“This is a long process, and it takes at least three to five years to get off the ground,” Schwab said. “To do it right, it really takes this long.”

Yates added that the community’s efforts will be essential in developing the co-op.

“This is going to be a very homegrown market and business,” Yates said. “It will add to the walkability of the village.”

Martinez said the founders of the co-op believe that Williamsville provides a great location for a community-driven market.

“There’s something special about this place,” she said. “Having the co-op here would be great for the area. The co-op would continue to feed the soul in this community.”

She added that although development of the co-op is a multiple-year effort, the outcome of having a collectively owned grocery store in the village will be worth the hard work and dedication.

“Not one of us is going to give up on this,” Martinez said “The co-op will happen.”

Schwab added that volunteers are also being sought to assist the board with marketing, social media and accounting.

For more information about the co-op or to inquire about becoming a volunteer, email info@villagecoopmarket.com, or call 632-2741.

Further details, including membership applications, are available on the co-op’s website, www.villagecoopmarket.com.

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