Medford Food Co-op has announced it will open Aug. 13, capping more than six years of dreaming, scheming, angst — and now euphoria.
"It's fist-pumping time," said John Miele, a three-year member of the Medford Food Co-op board, on Thursday.
Official opening: Aug. 13, 2011
Address: 945 S. Riverside Ave., Medford
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week
General manager: Emile Amarotico
General Manager Emile Amarotico and Miele, the co-op's vice president, confirmed a grand opening, including a chamber of commerce ribbon cutting, for the second Saturday of August at 945 S. Riverside Ave.
"There's real excitement, it's a great feeling," Miele said. "We're finally going to open a grocery store. A lot of people put forth a lot of effort ... and our community is about to be rewarded."
The co-op's more-than-1,500 shareholders made it clear in a series of surveys their primary desire was for local and organic goods at the store, which will carry about 15,000 items.
"Fresh, organic produce was No. 1, with bulk items a close No. 2," Amarotico said. "Local meats were up there, too."
What didn't rate high on the list were beauty products and health supplements, he said. "Wine and beer were not big draws either."
Packaged goods will start arriving in mid-July, followed by produce and other fresh products as the store opens.
Customers who have shopped at the Ashland Food Co-op will find some distinct differences.
"There won't be a deli right up front like at Ashland," Amarotico said. "We won't have the resources for food service on site and they do their own meat cutting."
Medford Co-op will rely on Cascade Organic Meat of Klamath Falls to supply its coolers.
While it took two campaigns and some late-inning heroics from Batzer Construction and others to get Medford on the co-op map, Amarotico said there are many other communities and groups around the country still waiting to get in the game.
"If all the co-ops-in-planning came to fruition it would double the number," Amarotico said. "I think it's a backlash to the economy, it's contributed to the interest here."
He said the pay scale won't match Ashland's at the outset. Entry level workers will earn $9 an hour with more experienced employees earning in the $12 to $13 range.
"Ashland's pay is much higher and we aspire to the same thing," Amarotico said. "But we need to ensure we're a successful startup before we commit to the whole kit and caboodle."
While the new entry aspires to reach the stature of Ashland's co-op, Amarotico said the Medford store will begin ahead of the curve in some ways.
"We're starting out at a fairly significant level," Amarotico said. "We're ahead of where a lot of co-ops begin as a buying club, where you split the contents of a 100-pound sack of beans so you can buy it for 25 cents a pound and your savings is in your sweat. We've got equipment, real estate and a staff."
Amarotico said the co-op's management team has begun filling its 25-person staff. As of Wednesday the organization had received 150 completed on-line applications.
He anticipates a trickle of new membership shares will be sold between now and opening day. Membership shares are $100 each, with purchasers becoming voting members of the co-op. Successful co-ops often share profits with members.
The worst fears after persevering through site and funding issues as well as board turnover are relatively simple.
"I'd prefer the power didn't go out for our refrigeration," Amarotico said. "And I hope they aren't paving Riverside on Aug. 13."
The "best problem" the co-op could encounter on opening day, would be to have too many customers, Amarotico said. "Then we would have to add more staff and hours."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.
Correction: The co-op's phone number has been corrected in this story.