Renaissance Co-op focuses on membership goalsBy Yasmine Regester / October 23, 2015
The Renaissance Community Coop has raised more than $2 million of the $2.17 million that is needed to open a neighborhood owned grocery store in Northeast Greensboro. With funding in place from the City of Greensboro, loans and private donations, the group is now focused on soliciting memberships.
The co-op currently has 638 owners, with a goal to get 1,000 owners by the store’s scheduled opening in April 2016. Co-op organizers have also raised more than $110,000 in low-or-no-interest owner loans. The goal is to raise $200,000.
The establishment of the Renaissance Community Co-op is also addressing a food desert in East Greensboro, defined by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture as an area without access to fresh foods within ten miles of the community, which organizers have been passionate about.
“The people in the community came together to meet a need,” said RCC organizer, John M. “JJ” Jones, who has lived in Northeast Greensboro since 1971. “We’ve been denied a grocery store since 1998.”
According to organizers, the profits from big franchise stores leave the community and go to the company unlike a co-op, where the profits can stay in the community to help enhance it.
“A co-op is the community,” said Casey Thomas. “The profit stays in the community and as an owner-member you have a say in what is done with the profits.”
All 1,000 members will have a vote in what happens with the store. Three residents were elected to the Co-op Board of Directors at Monday’s meeting: John Jones, Eleanor Graves and Floyd Guidry.
“We want other people in the area to see how important this is. We are investing back into our community,” said Jones.
The City of Greensboro sold the Renaissance Shops at Phillips Avenue to Self-Help Venture Funds for $490,000 and Self Help has since contributed $350,000 in renovations to the grocery store space and parking lot.
Regenerative Finance, the patient investor group that has already raised $100,000 for the RCC, has offered a second investment of another $100,000 – if they can raise it from among their members.
RCC organizers noted that opening costs and the cost of running a campaign has gone up since they originally estimated last year. Goldie Wells, a former Greensboro City Council member and community organizer has been working for years to get a grocery on Phillips Ave, with very little success.
“They kept saying the community didn’t meet the criteria because of the lack of traffic, and we didn’t have a stoplight,” said Wells, who also fought alongside the neighborhood against the reopening of the White Street Landfill.
Jones attributes the new economic opportunities in the community to the closing of the landfill.
The 10,000 square foot space for the co-op will alleviate a 17-year food desert created when grocery store giant Winn-Dixie closed in 1998. The RCC plans to create at least 32 new full and part-time jobs, paying $10 or more per hour with benefits. Co-op organizers are confident that having an anchor store will attract other businesses to the center, which is currently home to just one store, a Family Dollar.
The group also intends to have a pharmacy, bank, and possibly other city services offered in the shopping center.
“We want the same amenities that other subdivisions have, such as a bank, pharmacy and grocery store,” said RCC organizer, Goldie Wells.
Memberships for the co-op are $100 and people can pay through monthly installments to make it more affordable.
“This is something for you. This is something that you can invest in that will make your community better for you and your children, and your children’s children,” said Jones.