Caledonia Co-op will be a full-service grocery store not far from the size of Littleton Co-op when it opened. (Littleton currently has over 6,000 members and $11 million in sales.) Caledonia Co-op will provide the St. Johnsbury region with lots of local, organic, vegetarian and vegan, artisanal, and international foods, and it will create jobs and keep more spending in the area. Compared with traditional grocery stores, a food co-op increases local farming through committed buying and promotion of local products.
Vermont’s 13 food co-ops plus Hanover and Littleton in New Hampshire together have over $200 million in gross sales, rising each year. At some co-ops, as much as 40 percent of sales are “local” products — grown or value-added within 100 miles. Some of the largest co-ops have recently expanded (Littleton, Middlebury, Putney) or added a store (Onion River in South Burlington). We're excited about opening Caledonia Food Co-op in St. Johnsbury!
Co-ops tend to thrive in areas with an educational institution, a regional health center, and government offices, all of which St. Johnsbury has. The town is the location of more than 650 state and federal employees; St. Johnsbury Academy puts $21 million a year into the area economy; and NVRH puts more than $47 million a year (more than $38 million in payroll alone). St. Johnsbury is the seat of Caledonia County and the point where two interstates and northern Vermont’s main east-west highway all meet.
Establishing a co-op grocery store is complex and takes time, usually at least three years. The cost to open our store may be $3 to $4 million or more. The excellent news is that an enormous amount of information and support is available to start-up food co-ops. We’re following the path laid out by the non-profit Food Co-op Initiative and the consulting group CDS. We’ve partnered with the Town of St. Johnsbury and applied for a USDA Rural Development grant to pay for a top-quality feasibility study, part of which will evaluate sites. The Town strongly supports this project and is contributing toward the cash match required by the grant.
We also have strong support from the largest VT and NH co-ops and the northeast regional group (Hanover Co-op paid for our membership!). We’re not inventing anything, just following a known successful path. Once we have the results from the feasibility study, we'll launch into planning and construction or renovation!
The most important thing you can do to help is to join the co-op! A membership, which covers a household, is just $100.
What is a co-op?
A co-op is a group of people who work together for economic benefit. A co-op is owned by its members; it’s a democracy, with one vote per person. A group of people acting cooperatively can create a business where other kinds of entrepreneurship don’t work. A food co-op returns any surplus profit to its members in the form of a dividend.
The Caledonia Food Co-op will:
— be a great local supermarket with local, natural, artisanal, vegetarian, vegan, and international foods
— create local jobs
— increase local farming (through committed buying and promotion)
— keep more spending in the area