By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
After five years of false starts, meetings, surveys, donations, sweat and tears, the Green Market Cooperative has its own storefront in Glasgow. Local residents can visit the North Race Street store and purchase organic tea and spices, gluten-free cookies, natural peanut butter and other organic, locally-produced, specialty health foods.
An idea that developed in 2003, the Green Market Cooperative encompasses an entire style of life, according to co-op president Derek Oldenkamp.
“It’s more than a store,” Oldenkamp said. “It’s going to be a whole concept of sustainable living, sustainable eating, healthy living, healthy eating.”
The cooperative started at the suggestion of local resident Kimberly Page, and enthusiasm built among community members interested in local food, sustainability and healthy living. The small grocery store, which was previously an incubated business within hardware store Joseph A. Wade, is owned by cooperative members through their monetary contributions. Over the years, it has tried to build its product line. The current store sells a variety of organic staples, such as spices, flour and sugar, as well as specialty tea, cereals, peanut butter, syrup and other goods. Customers can make special requests for new products, and the co-op does its best to stock the shelves with anything community members want.
Patsy Leech, who has been involved with Green Market since its inception, said she joined the cooperative because she wanted to help create something that benefits the community.
“I found it was something the community could definitely benefit from and something the community could really get into,” Leech said. “I thought it was something I could give back to the community. I am proud to be part of this county.”
While co-op owners are thrilled to finally have a store and see progress, Green Market is still a work in progress. The cooperative would love to sell local produce, meat and eggs, but the biggest obstacle to that in its current location is the narrow doorway. Even if a refrigerator or freezer were donated, store manager Amanda Edmunds said, the appliance would have to be small enough to fit through the door.
Freezers, refrigerators, cooking classes and nutrition workshops are all things Green Market is striving toward, as well as probably a bigger store, Oldenkamp said. They’re just getting started, he said, but getting to this point has been a much longer journey than anticipated.
“It’s a labor of love,” Oldenkamp said. “Nothing good came easy.”
Board member Irene Henry said she never expected getting a store to take five years.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Henry said.
The wait is over now thanks to Dr. Bahrat Mody, a local surgeon, philanthropist and avid supporter of Green Market. Mody owns the building in which Green Market’s store is now located.
“It was through Dr. Mody’s generosity that we have the present location,” Leech said.
Other local businesses and residents have helped bring the store together, Oldenkamp said, like Lessenberry Do-It Center and Brian Pickerel. Most of all, the store has come together thanks to volunteers.
“They’re really the heart and soul of the cooperative, the volunteers,” Oldenkamp said.
Even Edmunds and others who work in the store volunteer their time. But with no expenses other than utilities, Oldenkamp said he hopes to have the store profitable within a year, and eventually they will start paying the store workers.
“This won’t be a volunteer thing forever,” Oldenkamp said.
In order to fulfill the co-op’s big dreams, Oldenkamp said above all, the community has to embrace them.
“If the people of the community don’t support it, we’ll never be sustainable,” Oldenkamp said.
The customer flow since the store opened has been fairly light, Edmunds said, but she knows there are a lot of people in the community interested in healthy choices and the co-op gathers all those healthy options in one place.
Two years from now, Oldenkamp said he envisions the North Race Street facility packed to the brim, if the cooperative hasn’t moved to a bigger building. Once they are a full-service retail food store, Oldenkamp said they will then turn toward the co-op’s educational goals.
“We hope to educate, garden,” Oldenkamp said. “We think it’d be great if we get into the schools, teach people about what food is and what it does … It’s fulfilling to know where your food comes from.”