The Portland Food Co-op, which has grown steadily since officially incorporating in 2008, announced on Monday that it has signed a lease on 3400 square feet of retail space at 290 Congress Street and hopes to open a full-service market there in September 2014. The co-op grocery store will be owned by its members and open to the public, offering locally produced foods, bulk items, and household products that Portland Food Co-op (PFC) board president Daniel Ungier says will be priced to compete with goods at big-name supermarkets.
The establishment of a public storefront has been a longtime goal of PFC member-owners, who currently benefit from a pre-order and pick-up system out of their buying club building on Hampshire Street (see “Chew On This,” by Deirdre Fulton, December 7, 2007). Last year’s sales topped $200,000, with more than 60 percent of products purchased from local producers. There are currently 616 members; in October, the PFC launched a campaign to sign up an additional 1000 members. Member-owners purchase one share in the cooperative business, a $100 equity investment, and in return get special discounts, and a say in how the co-op is run.
At Monday’s press conference, held in the cavernous space that used to hold the Labor Ready temp agency, Ungier highlighted the site’s on-peninsula (walkable and bikeable) location, abundance of parking, and centrality between up-and-coming neighborhoods like India Street and Bayside. He noted that the community-owned market will create an estimated 20 jobs, including some potentially forged in partnership with Portland Adult Education’s New Mainers Refugee Workforce Development Project. In addition, the PFC is currently accepting applications for a retail store general manager.