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Expansion moves forward for North Quabbin food co-op

The North Quabbin Community Co-op will occupy a new downtown storefront at the old Workers’ Credit Union building at 12 North Main St. in Orange.
Recorder/Micky Bedell

The North Quabbin Community Co-op will occupy a new downtown storefront at the old Workers’ Credit Union building at 12 North Main St. in Orange. Recorder/Micky Bedell

ORANGE — In an unconventional move, a local land trust is helping a local food coop to buy a new downtown storefront.

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the North Quabbin Community Co-op have signed a purchase and sale agreement for the former Workers’ Credit Union Building at 12 North Main St. The building will be purchased by the trust and will serve as the retail store and headquarters of the co-op.

Under the new partnership, Mount Grace will lease the first floor to the co-op for its retail operation. Mount Grace and the co-op announced this week their intention to make the building a center for the community and a site for activities that demonstrate and strengthen the connections between local farms, local food and the local economy.

“We want to increase access to healthy, local food for everyone in the North Quabbin,” explained co-op board President Amy Borezo. “This site is an ideal space for the co-op to grow, while revitalizing an unused building on Main Street.”

Currently, the cooperative, which has been operated exclusively by volunteers, is busting at the seams of its 250-square-foot corner several blocks west of downtown. The new space would have 1,700 square feet of retail space to house a full line of groceries and produce, including fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic and natural foods, dairy foods, local cheeses and frozen meats. There is also about 1,500 square feet of meeting space upstairs for educational events and community gatherings. It will have café seating for coffee and snacks, and a street-level entrance.

Borezo said the co-op’s membership drive and fundraising will continue until the doors open in the new space this summer.

“We’ve raised $55,000 so far and would like to raise at least another $22,000 to $40,000 through member capital, member loans and donations. We also plan on securing a loan for $60,000 through Common Capital. Members and others will get a chance to hear about our business plan at the annual meeting as well as vote to secure the loan,” Borezo explained.

Also in the plans is to provide food shares to seniors and low-income families through grants funded by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture and the Community Development Block Grant Program.

The co-op will be hiring a manager as well as looking to rename the organization to better suit its vision. The new manager will fulfill many needs in getting the new location running and will report directly to the board of directors.

Since its inception in 2009, the co-op has purchased about $100,000 worth of produce from local farms and producers. Contributions to support the new project can be made to either Mount Grace or the co-op. More information will be available at the upcoming co-op annual meeting April 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the third floor meeting area of the OIC building in Orange. Updated details on the project can be found by visiting www.nqeats.org and www.mountgrace.org.

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