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MailTribune.com
  • Checks are in the mail: Medford Co-op is a go

    Board members say weekend donations and checks on the way will allow the project to move ahead
  • A weekend influx of cash, plus several more promises of checks on the way, means the Medford Food Co-op has a projected opening date of late October, board members determined Monday night.
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  • A weekend influx of cash, plus several more promises of checks on the way, means the Medford Food Co-op has a projected opening date of late October, board members determined Monday night.
    "Medford has told us they do want a Medford Co-op," said board member John Meile, adding the community market is expected to add 30 new local jobs and have a $6 million impact on the economy.
    The project has had its share of ups and downs, which included leadership changes, an economic meltdown and a lengthy site search stretching back to 2005, said Co-op board president Jim Sims, who credited Meile, Tom Larson, Augustine Colebrook and Donna Kessler for bringing unique talents to the table during the process.
    "A year ago it was like looking at the Red Sea, only it hadn't parted yet," Sims said. "Now we just need a couple more days to pull all the loose ends together.
    Between Tuesday and Friday of last week, $60,000 worth of pledges, memberships and loans poured in, boosting the group's bank account to $485,000, said Sims, just shy of the $500,000 organizers needed to get things rolling with their new landlord, Russ Batzer.
    Over the past couple of days a series of ongoing donations tipped the cash balance to the point where Sims and three other board members met Monday night and determined they had the financial commitments necessary to move the project to its next phase.
    The past three weeks have had an "amazing" momentum, said Kessler.
    "I'm so impressed with Medford," agreed Colebrook.
    Sims said the Medford Co-op will work closely with Ashland's, which adds 50 new members a month. Once the doors open Sims said he expects to add 70 to 80 members a month.
    "It's transition time now," said Sims. "We just have to turn the shovel."
    Batzer, who owns the building that will be the Co-op's new home, also will be footing the bill for the changes that will turn the 9,000-square-foot building on the east side of Riverside Avenue, near where South Pacific Highway splits into Riverside and Central avenues, into a community-owned market. Batzer Construction is ready to begin demolition work, start remodeling and build a 700- to 800-square-foot addition, said Sims.
    "Our lease doesn't start until we have a certificate of occupancy. And then we have free rent for a month," said Sims.
    The momentum acquired from moving beyond capitalization continues to attract new $100 members. As of Monday, the Co-op had sold almost 1,600 shares, and has more to sell, Sims said.
    "We'll be having social events to promote membership," said Sims. "Members can own up to 20 shares. And they do pay cash dividends when the store makes a profit."
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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