Franklin Community Co-op forum location changed

  • Produce section of Green Fields Market. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2020 10:00:50 PM

GREENFIELD — In anticipation of a large turnout, the upcoming forum regarding the Franklin Community Co-op’s potential move to the Wilson’s building will now be held at the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew at 8 Church St. on Jan. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

According to Sarah Kanabay, outreach and communications manager for the co-op, the meeting and subsequent discussion will cover a recent market study overseen by the co-op; the current state of the co-op and why expansion is warranted; how growth would impact the member-owned co-op; and next steps and how members can participate in the process.

“We will be going over that, the current state of the co-op and why we need to grow,” she said.

Kanabay said the co-op has seen a fair amount of positive feedback since it announced its intentions to move. Following the announced closure of the 137-year-old Wilson’s Department Store, the co-op sent an email to its members on Jan. 3 addressing its plan, as part of an “ongoing expansion exploration process,” to move into the Main Street building’s first floor.

Based on city records, the Wilson’s property at the corner of Main and Davis streets, completed in 1880, is assessed at $1,440,900 with 85,731 square feet of finished space, including all five levels. Comparatively, the co-op’s Green Fields Market’s current first-floor space at 144 Main St. is 8,446 square feet.

The discussion Jan. 29 will feature a presentation from the Franklin Community Co-op’s general manager, finance manager and board president. There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion following the presentation.

“It is still in an exploratory phase, but it’s the beginning stages of what it could look like,” Kanabay said.

The co-op has added a page titled “Let’s grow together: Expansion updates!” under the “co-ownership” tab on its website. The page highlights the expansion plans and feature a mockup design of Green Fields Market in the current Wilson’s building — sans blue and white facade — created by Northampton-based Thomas Douglas Architects.

The upcoming forum will be the first in a series of open and interactive conversation opportunities for members, staff and the broader community, Kanabay said. She said the opportunity wouldn’t just benefit the Franklin Community Co-op, but also the other community businesses that work with the co-op.

“People are really excited about having it still be a community-owned entity, as the community cares deeply about not having big box stores come into the heart of downtown,” Kanabay said. “I think people really want to maintain that downtown feeling and keep that space alive.”

Greenfield Business Association Coordinator Rachel Roberts previously said it would be a good opportunity for the co-op, downtown Greenfield and the Franklin County community. With the move, Roberts said, the co-op would be able to offer more of its current offerings, such as the bakery, deli, produce and perishables (dairy, meats, frozen foods); provide more selection and better prices through greater purchasing and storing capacity; and offer greater seating and dining options, additional parking and improved accessibility.

The Franklin Community Co-op, which began as a buying club, the Montague Food Co-op, opened its first storefront in Turners Falls in 1977. The organization’s website notes that “the original store was run completely by volunteer members, who received a discount on purchases in exchange for their work. Eventually, with funds from a local VISTA program, the co-op hired a manager to coordinate activities at the store and keep it running smoothly. It was during this time that the co-op formally incorporated as the Franklin Community Co-op.”

To accommodate expansion, the co-op moved to Chapman Street in Greenfield in 1987, then to its current space at 144 Main St. in 1993, under the operating name Green Fields Market. A bakery and deli were new additions, according to the website.

These days, the co-op also leases space at Shelburne Falls-based McCusker’s Market, which serves Franklin County’s western hilltowns.

The plans to expand, according to the co-op’s General Manager John Williams, is a continuation of its mission to serve Franklin County’s sprawling community.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.


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