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Natural Growth

Local co-op transforms vacant space, shows promising revenue

June 17, 2012
By AMANDA WHISTLE , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - In one year the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market has more than doubled its membership, created several new jobs, increased its purchases of local goods twofold and breathed new life into the downtown scene, according to the market operator.

Whether in search of locally made beauty products, or in the mood for a snack like a North Creek-made Barkeater white chocolate-coconut bar, the co-op 's inventory has grown to much more than a food market.

Freshly roasted coffee on-site, the Micropolis Cooperative Art Gallery, cleaning products, a deli and cafe have transformed the space within the Schine Building into a one-floor department store that offers fresh seafood supplied by Antonucci's and an entire cooler devoted to bison meat.

Article Photos

Bonnie James-Cooper of Gloversville fills a bowl of tomato cheddar soup Thursday at the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market on North Main Street in Gloversville.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle

Shoppers can pick up ingredients for old favorites or try a new gourmet recipe. Or they can eat out and sink into one of the couches and dive spoon-first into a home-cooked bisque while classical music plays in the background. They can stick around for an evening open mic at the Happy Jacks Cafe.

Before opening its doors in July 2009 at 51 N. Main St., the co-op 's membership totaled more than 100.

By the time the market opened its new location in the Schine Building in May 2011 at 30 N. Main St., formerly the Open Window, its rolls totaled about 200 members.

Now, Market Manager Chris Curro said the market has attracted 450 memberships since it moved into its new space, which offers four times the square footage of the old store.

The co-op in its old location provided a venue for goods from about 65 producers. That number has spiked to more than 100, Curro said.

Membership costs a one-time $150 fee, or there are options to pay the fee in increments.

The co-op also has a Board of Trustees, whose members come from varied professions.

When the market turns a profit, the membership can vote to receive dividends.

Over the last year, the co-op doubled its purchasing level. In the past year, the co-op spent roughly $120,000 on local products. The 18 months before that, the co-op purchased $90,000 of local products to sell.

"Every day, we see new stuff come in," Curro said. "We're still in the process of growing."

In addition to cycling money through the local producers, the co-op has added several new jobs to the city.

Before the May 2011 move, the market employed Curro and a part-time assistant manager, Alan Harris.

Now it employs a total of three part-time employees and three full-time employees.

All this growth has turned the co-op into a $500,000 business.

"Total revenue is approaching $500,000. Year to year, we doubled every month from the old store to the new store," Curro said. "Our research told us we would double."

The co-op is continuing to grow carefully. The last two months the market has turned a profit after using about $27,000 for investments, according to the most recent tax documents.

According to 2010 tax documents, the market turned an $85 profit.

Allowing the market to expand its inventory was an investment into a $6,000 freezer that doubled the co-op's freezer capacity. Produce display space was quadrupled with a new $20,000 produce cooler that allows the market to keep goods fresher longer.

Two cheese coolers accommodate 30 cheese makers, 11 of which are local- up from two in the old location - and one more will be added to that list: Danascara, from Fonda.

This month, the Micropolis Cooperative Arts Gallery celebrates one year in its space.

"We are excited and proud to be celebrating our first anniversary in business," said local artist Linda Hinkle.

The Micropolis, located in the back of the market, started with 11 exhibiting artists and five patrons. Now, the gallery has 15 artists and 20 patrons.

Artists who put in six months of work at the gallery retain 80 percent of the income from the sale of their work while vendor artists donate 50 percent of the sale of their artwork to operations.

The gallery is operated by volunteers.

Every two months, the gallery hosts "Meet the Artist" receptions.

Fran Mehm, of Colonie, was visiting the co-op for the first time Thursday with her friend, Lawrence Spinak, of Gloversville.

"To me this is just lovely," said Mehm, who said the market was unique to any shopping experience she's had elsewhere.

Spinak eats breakfast at the co-op - coffee and a pastry - twice a week.

"It gives us a place to go. It's a very busy and very high-end place. The people who work here are extremely friendly," Spinak said. "It hasn't grown - it's zoomed. I'm very happy to see that."

Curro said the market's growth is seen as an organic transformation all backed by research - nothing forced too soon.

"We watch our costs carefully. We incrementally grow. We grow organically and responsibly," Curro said.

On Thursday a new four-door walk-in cooler was added in the back near the coffee roaster. The cooler should be online early next week, and will allow for more inventory space. About $5,000 has been raised so far toward a $15,000 goal that will also yield a walk-in freezer.

A third silent auction is upcoming for items like quilts and even an airplane ride with a local pilot.

"We believe that the future of Gloversville is very bright," Curro said.

Referring to an old photograph in the co-op 's bathroom depicting a crowded downtown complete with trollies and a horse and carriage, Curro added, "We won't go back to the times when Gloversville was elbow-to-elbow on a Friday night. But, we live in what we can be, not what has been. We're working with potentials and possibilities. There is no time for naysaying."

News Editor Amanda Whistle can be reached at business@leaderherald.com

 
 

 

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