Schenectady County

Schenectady food co-op plan on hold until more members sign up

Electric City Food Co-op members aren’t signing up as quickly as organizers had hoped.

Electric City Food Co-op members aren’t signing up as quickly as organizers had hoped.

A membership drive started in July, and as of Monday just 40 people had joined.

The goal was to have 100 members by the end of October.

Organizers envision that the member-owned business will be open year-round and will stock locally grown and produced items, as well as non-food and fair trade products. But plans won’t proceed until 400 members have signed on, said co-op initiator Katherine Wolfram of Niskayuna.

The cost to become a co-op member is $200 — a fee that won’t be spent until the business gets off the ground. If not enough support is generated to make the project viable, membership dues will be returned to everyone who paid them, Wolfram said. “There’s not really any risk,” she assured. “We have bookkeepers; we have oversight; we have people looking at everything.”

Wolfram said she is confident the co-op will get up and running. If she’s right, once the business has become stable, members will receive special discounts, and earnings will be distributed to members according to the amount of money they spend at the co-op.

In return, members will be asked to volunteer at the co-op at least one hour a year.

So far, roughly $10,000 has been raised to help fund the endeavor.

Organizers hope to recruit 200 co-op members by Jan. 1, but will still need to hit 400 before proceeding with the project.

“One of the things that is going to drive this is not me, but, in fact, the community,” Wolfram said. “If it’s something that the community of Schenectady wants, if the people that live in and work in Schenectady want something like this for their community and think it’s an essential part of their community, then it will work.”

Liz Mastrianni of Schenectady recently purchased a co-op membership. She said she likes the idea of bringing another outlet for quality food to the city.

“I live a couple blocks away from the proposed location so I’m happy that there could be an option where I could actually walk to a grocery store. And I think it gives great options for the kids at Union College as well as Schenectady County Community College,” she noted.

Since April of 2012, co-op organizers have been eyeing a space in the former freight station that most recently housed Grossman’s Bargain Outlet at 1410 Erie Blvd. The site is owned by Legere Restorations of Schenectady.

If the co-op does wind up there, it may occupy a smaller area than originally anticipated, but there would be the option to acquire more space if needed, Wolfram said.

Alternate locations are still a possibility. “I keep looking at buildings all the time,” she said. “But quite frankly, there’s no other location that I have found so far that has the parking and visibility.”

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