Will work for food
Big plans are underway for the food co-op’s new location
“Expansion” doesn’t quite seem the appropriate word for what the Great Basin Community Food Co-op is currently undertaking. It’s more like a whole new store, with a bakery, cafe and farm-to-chef program part of the plans.
The co-op just closed the deal on 240 Court St., a 7,000-square-foot building directly across Flint Street from Lake Mansion and close to downtown residents and bus lines. With an expansive main floor, a spacious basement, and an upper mezzanine that will soon include a balcony, it’s quite a change from its cute but cramped current location at 542 1/2 Plumas Street—and about 14 times the size.
“We have about 50 growers and producers,” said co-op cofounder Amber Sallaberry, drinking hot tea from a honey jar on a recent morning at the site. “As the co-op is growing, the farmers are growing.”
She said they expect to start moving in June, with a Sept. 1 opening date.
Plans for the space include an edible garden and demonstration site at the entrance and an expansion of all current grocery departments. That includes a bigger bulk foods section, with new additions of bulk honey, a nut grinder, beer, wine and more local meats. According to Sallaberry, no one sells local organic bread, so the co-op also plans to bake bread onsite. A baker at heart, Sallaberry may head that herself. They’re also bringing in an executive chef to make sandwiches, salads and fresh organic lunches. Patrons can eat that in a self-serve and café area—“a community space, where they can sit, hang out with friends, get a cup of tea,” said Sallaberry. As the co-op’s business grows, there’s also space for a smoothie and juice bar featuring things like locally grown, organic wheat grass. Offices, a walk-in cooler, small kitchen, storage and distribution area will be in the basement.
The new location will also be a staging area for a farmer-to-chef program. Farmers would contact the co-op and tell them what they have available. The co-op would send weekly lists of that information to interested restaurants for ordering. The farmers would drop off their harvest at the co-op, where chefs would pick it up. Ideally, this will cut down on the farmers’ overhead and time making deliveries rather than farming. It should also allow chefs to better plan menus around local ingredients and get more diners eating locally grown, organic food—including diners at institutions like local hospitals and schools. With this kind of system, farmer Rick Lattin said, “I think we have an opportunity to quadruple, or even do 10 times what we’re doing now.”
How do they plan to pay for all of this? The farmer-to-chef program is funded through a $20,000 grant written by the Nevada Small Business Development Center. For the rest of it, co-founder Nicole Sallaberry says they’ve budgeted just over $500,000. About $100,000 of that is secured from other sources. For the remainder, around $415,000, the Sallaberry sisters are placing their hopes and expectations on a six-week member-loan drive, which will begin Feb. 14. Nicole said a co-op in Bozeman, Mont.—where nearly half the city’s 35,000 residents are members—raised around $2 million through such a drive. She broke it down this way: If every one of GBCFC’s 2,500 members were to pre-pay their membership fees for the next 10 years—an idea called an equity drive—they’d pay $160 each, and the co-op would be within reach of its goal.
“It’s equity, or an investment, in the co-op,” said Nicole.