Medford, your co-op is close to completion

Organizers predict early July opening

Construction crews are set to finish work at the long-awaited Medford Food Co-op site this weekend, and organizers are predicting an early July opening — positive news for those frustrated by construction delays that put the project several months behind schedule.

"If you go and take a look inside, it looks like we're opening any minute now," said Jim Sims, co-op board president. "We're right into those last couple of steps."

Renovations to the building at 945 S. Riverside Ave., began last September with hopes of a year-end completion, but that timetable was delayed at least twice because of building permit and plan design complications.

"We're on track and moving forward," said the store's general manager, Emile Amarotico. "The single biggest factor has been weather."

Amarotico says Medford's Batzer Construction, which owns the building, is now applying the finishing touches to a $250,000 renovation project, such as sealing the floor and paving the parking lot.

Batzer Construction worked with the co-op board to design and develop the building, a former restaurant, Asante health office and, most recently, a day-care center.

"Keeping the natural landscape of the property was intentional and different than most retail properties in Medford," according to Gary Caperna, a Batzer Construction architect. "Co-op patrons are going to love it."

In watching everything come together, Sims credits community support for the project's emerging success.

"The place is absolutely astonishing," said Sims, "Whenever we really needed something, there was someone there to pick up the slack."

Funding for the project came in $100 pieces from the sale of member shares, from hefty $5,000 (and up) member loans to the project, and a variety of other donations, said Sims, adding that the fundraising total has eclipsed $600,000.

"In terms of financial integrity, we are in really great shape," Sims said.

A few top-level management positions at the co-op have already been filled, but the co-op plans to wait until a couple weeks before opening to hire the rest of their employees.

Sims said the store plans to hire more than 20 people and train them to create a strong customer service environment for shoppers.

"It's in the nature of co-ops to pay as much attention as possible to customers," he said.

The Medford Food Co-op, like other food co-ops, will be owned by community members who pay for shares and get a return on store profits.

For more information, see www.medfordfoodcoop.com.

Teresa Ristow is a reporting intern from Southern Oregon University. Reach her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.


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