L.A. Co-op coming along

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Cooperative membership soars, investment reaches half a million dollars

By Carol A. Clark

The opportunity to shop in a local natural food grocery store is growing ever closer as member ownership in the Los Alamos Cooperative Market tops 400.

To date, the team behind the co-op has collected more than $450,000 since launching its member loan drive in January.  “We are closing in on our goal and are now opening up our loan program to the community at large,” Co-op Board Vice President Karen Kendall said. “Our loan program gives people the opportunity to support the co-op as it moves into the next phase of development. The co-op must raise $1.3 million to open the store and our intention is to raise as much capital as possible in individual loans to minimize the amount needed from bank loans.”

Kendall describes the details for investing in the co-op loan program:

• $1,000 minimum investment;

• For loans below $5,000, the interest rate is the investor’s choice up to 3 percent;

• For loans of $5,000 and more, the interest rate is the investor’s choice up to 4 percent;

• These are 10-year loans;

• Interest will compound annually during the first four years and

• Both loan and interest will be paid out in years five through 10.

“Our co-op will serve not only the people of Los Alamos but also many who commute daily to Los Alamos from the Española Valley and beyond. It will provide a new year-round outlet for Northern New Mexico producers and create approximately 30 new jobs in the county,” Kendall said.

The co-op’s first board of directors election was held last spring. Nancy Savoia was elected president, Kendall was elected vice president, Andrew Erickson was elected secretary, Kathy Campbell was elected treasurer and Paul Frederickson, Cecile Hemez, Marguerite McClay and Jane Riese were elected directors.

The group has worked for three-and-a-half years to bring the co-op to Los Alamos. The effort began in 2006 when Savoia collected 500 signatures in support of bringing the La Montañita Co-op natural foods store to town. Though La Montañita declined to open another grocery store at that time, they offered to assist Los Alamos in opening its own cooperative market.

Several local women joined Savoia in deciding that Los Alamos needed a community-owned and operated cooperative natural foods market. It was at that point that the Los Alamos Cooperative Market began to materialize.

The women began by meeting with the Los Alamos Small Business Development Center and La Montañita board members to develop a local plan.

“In responding to a growing demand for natural foods and considering the strong support for the local farmers markets every summer, we decided to conduct a market survey. The survey generated more than 600 responses in support of opening an organic food store in town,” Kendall said. “Having a local store would make shopping more convenient and would eliminate driving 70 miles round-trip to Santa Fe for such foods. We believe the Los Alamos Cooperative Market will fill a major retail gap and the strong community support is a driving force for completing the many tasks still to be done.”

The co-op will be a member-owned and operated food store. It is an alternative to commercial profit-oriented businesses, in providing a place for the community to be actively engaged in its food choices, according to the organization’s mission statement.

The intent is to serve Los Alamos County and the surrounding communities by providing fairly priced, wholesome foods and other goods in an ecologically sustainable, socially responsible and economically appropriate manner, the mission states, and the co-op strives to develop healthy food awareness through educating members on sustainable best practices and supports non-toxic, sustainable agriculture.

The Los Alamos Cooperative Market is incorporated as a New Mexico Cooperative Association under Chapter 53, Article IV of NMSA 1978. Unlike most corporations, which have stockholders who own the business, the Los Alamos co-op is a non-stock membership organization in which its members hold equitable ownership collectively.

Once the necessary funds are raised, construction will begin on the co-op building on property in the Entrada Business Park on East Road.

For additional information, contact Kendall at 412-3793 or e-mail  vicepresident@lacoopmarket.com.Visit the co-op Web site at www.lacoopmarket.com.