Medford food co-op finds home

Medford group will rent store site on South Riverside

After months spent searching for the right spot, Medford Food Co-op members voted unanimously Friday to sign a lease to open a store in a nearly 9,000-square-foot building on South Riverside Avenue.

Co-op president Jim Sims called the vote during an evening meeting at the Medford library.

"We are now ready to move forward in a positive direction," Sims said.

The agreement calls for building owner Batzer Construction Inc. to design and complete $250,000 in renovations on the building at 945 S. Riverside Ave.

The building will have to be remodeled from top to bottom inside, making it habitable for a fully functional grocery and perhaps deli.

The building is on the east side of Riverside, a block north of the point where South Pacific Highway splits into Riverside and Central avenues.

Sims would not comment on the monthly rent price, saying the Batzer family doesn't not want to publicly announce the rate.

"They look at it like a business deal and therefore want it to remain private," Sims said.

Sims did tell the members the rent is "very reasonable" compared to some of the other buildings they inspected during the quest to find a home for the co-op.

Signing the lease could help the co-op raise the nearly $500,000 in funds needed by June 30 to get the business off the ground.

"What is one of the first things people ask when you talk to them about the co-op?" Sims asked. "They want to know where it is or where it's going to be. Once we have a building people might feel more comfortable supporting the co-op."

Batzer and the co-op began negotiations about a month and half ago. The building has been vacant for more than a year and has been listed for sale at $1 million.

The co-op does have an option to buy the building at a later date, Sims said.

Sims praised the Batzers, saying they were co-op members who have a personal, as well as business, investment in the store.

"They are interested in helping their community buy leasing us this building," Sims said.

Former business that operated in the building include Rudolph's restaurant and Asante Health System. It was most recently a day care center called Stepping Stone Academy.

The deal calls for the co-op to have the nearly $500,000 in capital in place by July 1. Batzer has indicated it would work with the co-op board if it is unable to raise the money in time.

The store will not use every bit of space inside the store. Sims speculated the co-op could lease the additional space to another business, such as a organic bakery, to help offset rent payments.

"It is too soon to talk about such things, though," Sims told the members.

The building sits on 1.2 acres and has about 50 parking spaces.

The co-op will be a community-owned market offering organic, local and free-trade foods.

For more information, see www.medfordfoodcoop.com.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail him at cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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