Schenectady County

Renovations stall opening of Schenectady food co-op

Plans for a local and natural foods co-op on the edge of downtown Schenectady are proceeding but the

Plans for a local and natural foods co-op on the edge of downtown Schenectady are proceeding but the business won’t open as soon as organizers had hoped.

Renovations to the proposed site, which most recently housed Grossman’s Bargain Outlet building at 1410 Erie Blvd., will take longer than anticipated, said co-op initiator Katherine Wolfram of Niskayuna. The opening date will now likely be some time in 2014 instead of in 2013, she estimated.

“It’s a disappointment to me in a way because I was really looking forward to getting it going,” Wolfram said. But she added that she didn’t think the delay was a bad thing.

“I think it’s probably a positive because it gives us more time to raise awareness about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and we have more time to meet with groups and raise funds,” she said.

The structure, built in the late 1800s or early 1900s, was originally the D&H Freight Station. It’s now owned by Legere Restorations in Schenectady. Ray Legere, who co-owns the business with his business partner and cousin Jeff Legere, said preparation work has already started on the building.

“We’re working on a way to save as many of the old components as possible,” he said.

The building’s interior has painted brick walls and an open-truss ceiling.

“That’s what we want to preserve — the freight station look,” he said. “We’re exploring those options right now, as to what’s the most architecturally appealing yet energy efficient way to make it work.”

He said the co-op will be a perfect fit for the old freight station.

“I think it actually goes back to the roots of the building,” he said. “This was the freight station for Schenectady. Produce, manufactured goods, raw materials, all came into Schenectady and out of Schenectady via this one train station. It seems like a natural to me. It brings back the history.”

Legere said there are so many different variables involved in the building’s renovation that he can’t give an accurate estimate of when the co-op or any other businesses will be able to move in. The building could be refinished in segments, he said.

“We would be excited if we could get something open next summer,” he said.

Wolfram put out a survey to gauge community interest in the co-op almost a year ago, and since then she and her steering committee have been hard at work.

The business now has an official name — Electric City Food Co-op — a website and a Facebook page. Startup floor plans for the 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot section of the building the business will occupy have been drawn up, bylaws and articles of incorporation are being written and donations of shelving and other needed hardware are being collected.

A locally based coffee shop, which Wolfram is not yet ready to name, wants to operate a small cafe inside the co-op.

The co-op’s steering committee still has to approve the concept of adding the coffee shop — a for-profit business — to a not-for-profit business model and decide exactly how the two business models will work together.

The local agricultural community has expressed a good amount of interest in the co-op.

Wolfram said she has more than 20 farmers and local product producers who want to sell their wares there.

Consumers are expressing enthusiasm as well. As of Monday, Wolfram’s online survey had netted 424 responses. Of those, 56 percent said they would be likely to join the co-op. Membership would not be a requirement for shopping at the store.

“The highest percentage of people that would join are under 25, which is encouraging and refreshing that young people are really going to be on board here,” she said.

The steering committee plans to hold a co-op membership drive in January or February.

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