Shareholders, business leaders and community members got a sneak preview Friday of the new Medford Food Co-op in anticipation of its Aug. 13 opening.
The avocado green, 9,000-square-foot building with purple window frames and a shingled roof doesn't yet feature the fresh organic produce and local farm-raised products that it plans to offer, but these will be coming two days before the opening.
For now, the shelves at 945 S. Riverside Ave. are stacked with boxed foods, wine, beer and dry goods. The co-op promises to provide 25 jobs and carry more than 15,000 products.
Medford Food Co-op organizers and investors were originally inspired by the successful Ashland Food Co-op in 2005, and hoped to establish a similar venture in Medford by 2007. However, the real estate bubble promptly burst, lines of credit dwindled, and unemployment skyrocketed.
By late summer 2010, organizers had reached their fundraising goal of half a million dollars and had chosen the South Riverside site, formerly a restaurant, then a day-care center.
Renovations and a new paint job followed, and the co-op is now nearly ready for business.
Staff member Michelle Guerrie said that she had experience working at the Ashland Food Co-op and that she hoped lessons learned from that location could be applied in Medford.
When asked what her favorite feature of the new store was, she didn't hesitate in responding.
"It's the people," she said. "It's the people who come here and the people who work here, and the people who made this all possible. And then the food. The food's a good part, too. All this yummy food."
Organizers said if a co-op can work in Ashland, it can work in Medford and attract clientele that had been driving south for their groceries.
"This was supposed to happen," said co-op president Jim Sims. "This will support our local farmers... the same as in Ashland. We support local agriculture and we support local organic agriculture."
Andy Batzer, the site property owner who described himself as a "big supporter" of the Medford co-op, said that in addition to bringing healthy food options and supporting local suppliers, the co-op would encourage other new businesses to start up in the neighborhood.
"Like in Ashland, the co-op started out small, but the Ashland Food Co-op became the center of the town and a lot of other jobs were created," Batzer said.
Mat Wolf is a reporting intern from the University of Oregon. Reach him at 541-776-4481 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.