Food co-op set to open at Harvest Market location

The Manchester Food Co-op, a member-owned local food cooperative, proudly announced plans last month to open its food cooperative at the Bedford Harvest Market location. The Manchester Food Co-op, founded in 2010, currently has 1,175 member-owners and has been working for the past three years to secure and operate a full-service retail market to serve Greater Manchester. The co-op will offer local food including produce, meat, dairy and grocery items from N.H. farmers and local business, while engaging the community in healthy food relationships.

The Harvest Market is currently owned by the Associated Grocers of New England, also a cooperative. The MFC will work to gain 2,000 member-owners and $1 million in capital funds over the next several months with plans to secure the site by mid-summer. The transition from traditional grocery store to a co-op will begin in February with the product selection starting to convert to local, organic and sustainable selections. Once the capital goal has been reached, the store will undergo layout and design changes such as expanding the cafe and building a larger prepared foods section, as well as integrating bulk items, health and beauty, and supplements.

"This is a wonderful opportunity that presented itself to us, as a cooperative, to assume ownership of an already operating grocery location versus starting from scratch. Using an existing store allows our community to build its co-op faster and Associated Grocers of New England is invested in the long-term success of the co-op," said Sarah-Marie Cole, President of the Board of Directors for the Manchester Food Co-op.

"We are very excited to work with the Manchester Food Cooperative in this new venture," said Mike Bourgoine, president and CEO of AGNE. He continued "AG has been a retailer-owned cooperative wholesaler for nearly 70 years, and the Bedford Harvest Market location has been part of the AG family since 1989. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity for AG and we look forward to helping the Manchester Food Cooperative take root in this already successful location. AG New England supplies a number of member-owned cooperatives, some right here in New Hampshire, and they have become very successful supermarkets."

Howard Brodsky, CEO and co-founder of the cooperative CCA Global Partners comments "the cooperative business model is about empowering individuals and bringing people together. I’m delighted to see Manchester coming together to support the opening of the food co-op which will make local, fresh, healthy food available to the community."

The Manchester Food Co-op and its newly hired general manager will begin taking next steps to facilitate its member loan campaign to raise the $1 million in capital funds needed to open the co-op. The co-op will begin to work closely with local producers and farmers, as well as with AGNE, to begin to transition the product selection.

"After an extensive review by the board, it became obvious that this opportunity was our best option for success. This site provides significant benefits that were not available with any of the other locations we considered," said Steve Freeman, vice president of the board of directors. "We looked at over twelve locations in the past three years. When this opportunity presented itself, we spent a considerable amount of time looking at the financial opportunities and conducting a third market study; all signs said this will be our first store!" Freeman has been a board member for five years.

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