PLATTSBURGH — Major changes are coming to one of the mainstays of the downtown business scene.
The North Country Food Co-op plans a near total renovation as part of its commemoration of 40 years in business.
Co-op Treasurer Jeremiah Ward said improvements will include a redesigned layout, with new coolers, freezers, central air conditioning, cash registers and inventory system.
“These improvements will benefit Plattsburgh in a number of ways, first and foremost by providing the community with an increased variety of locally and organically produced food at the only place in downtown Plattsburgh where you can find healthy and affordable groceries for sale year round,” he said in a press release.
Renovations are expected to start in the coming months.
The first step is to hire a firm to prepare a comprehensive store design, which will begin in a couple of days.
The co-op has already raised almost $148,000 for the project.
That includes $42,000 in loans from several members and a loan commitment of $105,600 from the Cooperative Fund of New England, an organization that specializes in lending to member-owned and -controlled businesses.
Ward said the project will immediately create one new, good-paying job to manage the new registers and inventory system.
The renovation is expected to create additional jobs upon completion.
“More shelf space for locally produced goods also means a boost in sales for our local food producers,” he said.
The job-creation aspect of the project made the co-op eligible to apply to the City of Plattsburgh’s Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund for an additional $50,000.
Co-op General Manager Carol Czaja said the co-op has come a long way since 1974. It presently has more than 1,800 paying members.
“What began as a buying club operating out of someone’s home has grown into a full-fledged natural-foods store that is one of downtown Plattsburgh’s anchor stores,” she said.
“We would not be here today, preparing for our future growth, if it weren’t for the ongoing support of past and present member-owners.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon said the co-op has the kind of character that fits downtown. It is a long-standing example of the type of specialty shops that are making a resurgence, he said.
“They have a good inventory and some unusual products as well,” he said. “It is a good project, and I think it will add something to downtown.”
The co-op’s annual member meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4. In addition to the chance to vote on members for the store’s Board of Directors, it will mark an occasion to celebrate the co-op’s 40th anniversary.
All members are invited to attend, as are those who want to join for $5 per year (you can also sign up in the store). Members are entitled to vote in co-op elections and get a 5 percent discount on purchases.
Ward said they plan to launch another round of fundraising at the meeting. For a minimum loan of $1,000 for a three- to six-year period, members would receive interest paid at higher levels than banks are paying on savings accounts and certificates of deposit, he said.
“It’s a way for individuals to get a return while at the same time having a positive impact on the community,” he said.
Czaja said they are also accepting smaller donations, as every little bit helps.
“We raised the down payment to buy this building in 1996 by putting out a donations jar at the checkout counter,” she said.
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