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Hub City Co-op seeks $2M to open doors


By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 14, 2012

The Hub City Co-op needs to raise roughly $2 million of its $2.4 million goal to open its doors.

The co-op, a member-owned community market, plans to create around 30 jobs and repurpose a vacant building in downtown Spartanburg.

The co-op board, and its community partners, hope to bring the community together and help fill the void of the downtown food desert — an urban area with little access to grocery stores with fresh and affordable foods.

“It’s community-owned. It’s truly the whole community’s grocery store,” Hub City Co-op Board Chair Erin Ouzts said. “Spartanburg got together and said, ‘We want to have a grocery store downtown focusing on local, natural and healthy foods. No one else is doing it so we will.’ That’s an amazing commitment from the community, to the community.”

The Hub City Co-op plans to repurpose a building in downtown Spartanburg. The 7,800-square-foot building, pictured left, has been vacant for nearly 15 years. (Photos/Provided)
The Hub City Co-op plans to repurpose a building in downtown Spartanburg. The 7,800-square-foot building, pictured left, has been vacant for nearly 15 years. (Photos/Provided)The Hub City Co-op plans to repurpose a building in downtown Spartanburg into a community-owned grocery store. The 7,800-square-foot building, pictured left, has been vacant for nearly 15 years. (Photos/Provided)

The store will offer as many products as possible from local farmers and producers, as well as sustainably produced goods, meaning the goods were raised in a healthy way for consumers, animals and the environment.

“Co-ops tend to be more natural-food based with less processed foods and more nutritional quality,” Ouzts said. “If you purchase potato salad in the deli, it will be made right there in the kitchen from local ingredients. It won’t come off a tub, out of a truck and into a bin.”

The co-op has secured roughly $100,000 from more than 780 current owners’ memberships. A substantial portion of building preparation is being provided by the building owners, cutting down on expenses, Ouzts said.

The co-op needs to raise around $2 million more. The funding will go toward upfit, equipment, fixtures, merchandise, staffing, legal and design support, marketing, development expenses and working capital to sustain itself through the first few years toward profitability.

It will launch a fundraising campaign in the spring, and continue working to secure funding from grants, economic development funds and traditional loans.

The Hub City Co-op will locate in an old building built in the early 1900s in downtown Spartanburg, at 176 N. Liberty St., across from USC Upstate’s George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business. The 7,800-square-foot building has been vacant for nearly 15 years. It’s currently an empty shell.

Some of the funding will help repurpose the building and outfit it for 5,000 square feet of retail space and cafe-deli, salad bar and coffee areas.

“Co-ops tend to be a true destination, rather than in-and-out grocery shopping,” Ouzts said. “It is owned by the community and the community gathers there.”

Spartanburg has an adequate population and similar demographics of other areas that have successful co-ops, Ouzts said, such as the Hendersonville Community Co-op in Hendersonville, N.C., and the French Broad Food Co-op in Asheville.

The board recently contracted a program project coordinator and a part-time marketing team. The store will be member-owned, but not member-operated. It is currently managed by volunteers until the board can hire a full-time, professional staff.

Of the 30 new jobs that will be created, six will be salaried positions and the remaining will be hourly co-op positions. The staff will receive intensive training to assist shoppers with buying and preparing foods for certain diet requirements or food allergies.

Each member can purchase one ownership share for $150. Any community member can shop at the market, but the membership provides a rebate on purchases, in-store savings and a vote on how the market will run and the products it serves. The co-op will be controlled through the board.

The locally owned and operated aspect of the co-op offers flexibility in purchasing power without corporate constraints, Ouzts said. The product mix can change quickly based on needs, demands or crops.

It differs from a farmers market since it is open most days of the year. The full-service grocery store will offer dry, canned and frozen foods, as well as fresh meat and produce and some brand names for household amenities.


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