Organizers of the new Capital City Market Cooperative think they have enough money to begin a feasibility study to look at whether a co-op grocery store will work in Juneau.
The group, which incorporated just this month in a bid to takeover the soon-to-be vacant Alaskan & Proud market downtown, held an informational meeting last night (Monday) attended by more than 30 people.
Co-organizer Evelyn Rousso says the group already had enough money to put a down payment on the $12-thousand dollar study. After last night’s meeting, she was hopeful the co-op would have enough to pay for the whole thing.
“It’s surprising to me,” Rousso admits. “But I guess people from Juneau are from all over, and a number of people belonged to co-ops in other places they lived in and they loved it. And they really would love to see a co-op here in Juneau.”
Those who gave $500 to become founding members of the co-op had various reasons for doing so. Judy Crondahl says losing the only full service grocery store serving downtown Juneau and Douglas would be a huge blow to the community.
“My main reason is I think its critical that we have a grocery store in downtown Juneau,” Crondahl says. “I live in downtown, I have a car, but I love not having to use it.”
Karen Lawfer likes the fact that the co-op would be locally owned and responsive to the residents of Juneau.
“I like the co-op model in the fact that you are a member, and you have a say in an organization and how that organization is run,” Lawfer says. “Be it public radio, be it a grocery store, be it whatever it is.”
The Capital City Market group has raised the money despite persistent rumors of a new commercial operator taking over the A & P space. Co-op members acknowledge that the owners of the Foodland Shopping Center are in negotiations with the Myers Group. The Whidbey Island-based company operates five IGA stores in western Washington, including markets in downtown Seattle and Tacoma.
John Williams, real estate broker for the Foodland Shopping Center, has declined to comment on prospective tenants.
Rousso says until a deal is announced, the co-op feels the best course of action is to continue on with the market study.
“The problem is if we stop and wait for an announcement to be made, we could be waiting a year,” Rousso says. “Either we grab the initiative and the momentum that’s here because the store’s closing or not. And if we’re going to grab it, now’s the time.”
Rousso says the feasibility study will look at more than just the A & P space, though it remains the group’s preferred location.
If the effort does not pan out, organizers say whatever money is leftover will be split between all the founding members. The group also plans to apply for grants to cover some of the start up costs.
A group in Fairbanks planning to open Alaska’s first co-op grocery store later this year has raised $1.2-million toward its goal of $1.5-million.