Medford co-op starts renovations today

A ceremony at 11:45 a.m. launches the $250,000 project

Having surpassed its goal to raise more than $500,000 to found a community-owned grocery store, the Medford Food Co-op will kick off interior renovations today at its future home on South Riverside Avenue.

A public ceremony to mark the start of construction will begin at 11:45 a.m. at 945 S. Riverside Ave.

"By exceeding our goal, we showed that there was community support and interest for this project, and now we can move forward with our plans," said Jim Sims, co-op president. "It's a great accomplishment and a tribute to the people in the Southern Oregon region."

Medford-based Batzer Construction agreed to do $250,000 in renovations on the two co-op buildings as a part of a lease agreement for the space, the former location of Rudolph's restaurant, Asante Health System offices and, most recently, a day care center called Stepping Stone Academy.

Before work could begin, co-op organizers had to raise at least $500,000. As of Wednesday, the co-op had raised $650,000, the majority of which came from 4 percent interest loans from businesses and individuals. About $32,000 came from community and business sponsorships, $5,000 from donations and $80,000 from member share purchases.

Renovation plans call for knocking out the ceiling of the lower floor in the larger of the two buildings to provide natural light from upper windows and removing two walls to expand the market space to 5,000 square feet. The other 2,000-square-foot building will include restrooms, a warehouse and shipping and receiving. There will be a patio between the two buildings where customers may rest to have coffee or food, Sims said.

Construction is expected to wrap up by the end of the year, he said.

Investors started pouring in this summer as co-op organizers stepped up fundraising.

"We raised the last bit the same way we raised the other money," Sims said, "by just reaching out to people and explaining to them the importance of the co-op to their families, and it's also a great opportunity for local investment advantageous to the community as well as the individual participant.

"There was an element, too, of people waiting for their comfort level," Sims added. "It's different for every person."

The co-op will be the first community-owned, full-service food store in Medford. Its mission is to provide locally produced, naturally organic and bulk foods, co-op organizers said.

For more information, see www.medfordfoodcoop.com.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.


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