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Food store board considers leasing Medford site

ASHLAND-- The Ashland Community Food Store board has narrowed possible sites for a Medford store to four.

Staff members expect to sign a lease within the next six months, and possibly as soon as four weeks.

Feasibility studies of the sites are in advanced stages, Marta Boyett, the store's general manager, said at a store board meeting Thursday.But we aren't ready to make a commitment yet.

The board decided in late July to expand its successful community-owned natural food store into a second outlet in Medford.

The Ashland Community Food Store was developed from a food cooperative in 1972. The nonprofit organization has 4,500 members and annual sales of more than $6 million.

A second store has long been part of the store's long-range goals, and late last year board members commissioned a feasibility study for development of a second store. Since then, plans have moved along smoothly.

At a board meeting Thursday, the board agreed to form a new ad-hoc committee to pursue loans and financing for the new store. The board will seek as many as a dozen committee members from throughout the Rogue Valley.

We need to develop a presentation for the public to get them excited about loans and donations to the project, explained Dorothy Ormes, a board member who will head the new Capital Campaign Committee.

The store's Outreach Committee also will add members from outside the Ashland area to plan events in Medford. The Outreach Committee plans events such as the annual dog wash in Ashland.

Eventually the board, too, will look at restructuring itself to accommodate the new store, but Boyett said one board will probably oversee both stores. She said by sharing resources, administration and a board, both stores will flourish.

In Ashland, the store began using a new checkout system that will easily be expanded to serve both sites, Boyett reported at the meeting. But installing the new system caused some long lines this week. Boyett said employees handled the problem by offering those waiting juice and free food samples. To reduce stress on the cashiers, they were provided with chair massages on their lunch breaks, Boyett said.

Boyett said the next step in opening the new store is finishing business plans and finding a site. The board agreed to consult with a marketing firm and various financial institutions about their plans. Preliminary drawings are being made of possible store designs.

Boyett said staff members are talking with Medford city officials.

We are moving forward, she said.

(Persons interested in joining the new Capitol Campaign Committee or the expanded Outreach Committee should call the food store at 482-2237.)