Hopes for establishing a cooperative food store in Medford could be restored if it were a producer-owned market rather than a consumer-owned store as previously proposed by supporters.
Medford Market Co-op board members said Friday they could obtain a Small Business Administration loan if the store were producer-owned. They met with bankers Friday in Medford to discuss the possibility of borrowing $1.8 million to launch the co-op and will share information about the option at their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Cooley-Neff warehouse, 340 N. Fir St.
"This is definitely an option on our plate," said co-op board President John Statler.
"We, as a board, still are looking at other options.
"For me the most exciting thing is that the co-op is building relationships with bankers."
Producer-owned co-ops are eligible for a Small Business Administration loan but consumer-owned co-ops are not, said Dolores Harold, a vice president and small business administration specialist at Key Bank in Beaverton, who met with co-op board members Friday.
"The only caveat is that consumers could be part of the producers co-op but have to account for less than 20 percent," said Statler, a current Medford City Council member seeking re-election.
Potential owner-members could include local farmers, distributors and secondary producers such as local small businesses that make jams, Statler said.
The drawback to the store being owned by producers is that "producers want to maximize prices, and consumers want to get the best prices," said Dick Gordon, a Medford co-op member and unopposed Medford City Council candidate.
"It's possible in five years for the consumers to buy out the producers," Statler said. "It could be part of the agreement.
"It might be a way to get the market off the ground."
Financing has proven to be the largest obstacle for the Medford co-op effort, which began about three years ago with about 100 members.
The co-op board made plans to open in the historic Hubbard's Hardware building at the corner of Main Street and Riverside Avenue in downtown Medford last year, but the effort stalled when the group failed to secure enough funding.
Representatives from Seattle-based Evergreen Community Bank on Friday indicated they would consider the co-op for a loan to purchase a building. But a loan to fund the start-up operations would still be needed.
"We just haven't come across someone with that kind of money who wants to put it in something that risky," Gordon said.
The market would be similar to the Ashland Food Co-op with organic, free trade goods and other offerings. 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.
Membership to the Medford co-op costs $100 for one share. Each member may purchase up to 20 shares, said John Miele, Medford co-op board member.
For details, visit www.medfordmarket.org or call 541-664-5761.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or email@example.com.