Co-op enters home stretch

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Board of directors organize community work crews as store construction gets underway

By Carol A. Clark

After four years spent brainstorming, fundraising and signing up several hundred members, walls on the Los Alamos Cooperative Market are about to go up. The land is being prepared for the foundation under the 7,000-foot store, work crew subcommittees are being formed and the search for a manager is underway.

The idea to create a natural food co-op in Los Alamos took root in 2006. Last March, investment hit half a million dollars and membership topped 400. Ground was broken for the new facility in June and earth movers are now out in force preparing the building site located in the Entrada Business Park.

“The community has contributed nearly $800,000 towards our $1.1 million goal and membership has reached 455,” said Vice President Karen Kendall of the Los Alamos Cooperative Market’s board of directors. “This is really a communitywide effort. Now we want to call on the community for its help and expertise through the construction phase, which should be completed early next year.”

The co-op board is forming subcommittees for community work crews to tackle:

•  Painting

•  Flooring

•  Cabinet installation

•  Interior design

•  Landscaping

“We need to find volunteers with expertise in refrigeration, HVAC, electrical engineering and engineering management systems,” Kendall said. “We’re also looking for an expert to help us research solar and water catchment systems.”

Kendall said that members will own the food store, which will provide a place for the community to be engaged in local food choices.

“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,” Kendall said. “The co-op will strive to develop healthy food awareness through educating its members on sustainable best practices and the store will support non-toxic, sustainable agriculture.”

The co-op will serve Los Alamos residents as well as daily commuters from the Española Valley and surrounding area, Kendall said, adding it will provide a year-round outlet for northern New Mexico food producers.

“The co-op will create approximately 30 new jobs in the county,” she said. “We will be hiring a store manager soon. We’re looking for someone with co-op experience.”

Main Gate LLC partners Sam Gardner and Rick Reiss are constructing the new facility.

The Los Alamos Cooperative Market is incorporated as a New Mexico Cooperative Association. 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.

The co-op’s first board election was held in spring 2009.

The board includes President Nancy Savoia, vice president Kendall, Secretary Andrew Erickson and Treasurer Cecile Hemez.