Unlike Urban Greens, Fertile Underground is not a consumer co-op. It's a worker cooperative, meaning democratic control and equitable profit-sharing by workers. But it will also offer benefits to shoppers. Dedicated customers may receive discounts or even credit for weeks when they are short on cash.
The group still needs loans for operating expenses. So they are creating a "community-supported grocery," where people pay for inventory in advance to help supply collateral for loans. Supporters can purchase gift cards that can later be used at the store. The group hopes to sell about $25,000 in cards. It may sound like a lofty goal, but the neighborhood appears to be hankering for the store. About 50 people attended a series of listening sessions to collect local input this summer, and Giroux says he saw a lot of nodding heads.
While the grand opening may be months away, the group plans to peddle produce on the sidewalk in front of the store, starting July 10 from 9 am to noon. Construction on the inside of the store could take about two months, Giroux says, and the kitchen might open in October. But that's nothing compared to the four years since Giroux and his wife, Nina Maxwell, first dreamed of bringing fresh produce to the West Side.
"We talked about opening up the ground floor of a Victorian, and putting some produce out, and serving up some food out of the kitchen — and just doing it in more of an underground kind of sense," he says.
Fertile Underground is a larger home for the same basic idea.
"It ended up manifesting in a way that was much bigger than anything we originally thought about, but there's part of that magic to it, that when you imagine something you create it somewhere," says Giroux. "It's like it's birthed inside of the center of the universe and eventually it appears right in front of you in reality." To contact Giroux, email firstname.lastname@example.org.