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MailTribune.com
  • Medford co-op may find a home

  • The Medford Market Co-op on Friday will discuss an offer to use the historic Cooley-Neff warehouse at Fir Street as a temporary base to launch fundraising efforts and provide an interim food buyers club for the cooperative's 1,100 members.
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  • The Medford Market Co-op on Friday will discuss an offer to use the historic Cooley-Neff warehouse at Fir Street as a temporary base to launch fundraising efforts and provide an interim food buyers club for the cooperative's 1,100 members.
    Realtor Asher Yaron approached Medford Market board member Ben Truwe after the co-op's meeting last month and offered the space, possibly for free or at a discounted rent, said Truwe, who also is a Medford city councilman.
    Yaron did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.
    The Medford Market board of directors will hold a meeting for co-op members and the public at 6 p.m. Friday at the Cooley-Neff warehouse, 340 N. Fir St., (see correction note below) to tour the building and discuss whether it could be used as a temporary location.
    Attendees are asked to bring a chair if they wish to sit.
    "It needs to be crystal clear that we are not looking at this as a permanent home," Truwe said. "It won't be the Medford Market. It would be the Medford market buyers club or the Medford Market demonstration site."
    A buyers club would allow members to purchase food in bulk and divvy it up.
    "It wouldn't be open every day," said John Statler, president of the Medford Market board of directors and a Medford city councilman. "Hopefully, it would be open to accommodate working people."
    The venture to establish a co-op in Medford stalled last year when the group failed to raise enough money to secure a lease for space at the historic Hubbard's Hardware building at the corner of Main Street and Riverside Avenue in downtown Medford.
    The group will need to raise an estimated $2 million in order to open the Medford Market, which would be similar to the Ashland Food Co-op. The Ashland Co-op has annual sales of more than $18 million, which makes it one of the highest grossing natural foods co-ops in the country.
    The Medford Market has about $7,000 remaining in its bank account after paying bills associated with its past effort, according to financial records.
    Truwe said he was encouraged when he received the phone call from Yaron.
    "Most successful markets that have started in the last several decades have had a break like this," Truwe said. "They were given a free or low-cost space, which is a huge hurdle to get past, and that's where we are now."
    The warehouse is much larger than the 9,000 square feet the co-op is seeking and lacks parking space, board members said. It also likely needs a seismic upgrade and renovations to make it accessible to people with disabilities, Statler said.
    "There are issues with the building, but it's a generous offer, and we'd like to see if we can use it," Statler said.
    Board members still hope to open the market by September 2009 by harnessing information and guidance on co-op fundraising and development that board member Louise Dix has garnered from attending various conferences by the Northwest Cooperative Development Center and Cooperative Development Services.
    The Cooley-Neff warehouse, built in 1924 of stucco-coated concrete, is "the best surviving commercial example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style" in downtown Medford, according to the National Register of Historic Places.
    Developed by businessmen J.H. Cooley and Porter Neff, the warehouse was built as a commercial storage facility to help serve the Southern Pacific Railroad corridor. It is owned in part by Yaron. (See correction note below)
    Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.
    Correction: An incorrect address and incorrect ownership were included in the original version of this story. This version has been corrected.
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