The drive to bring a new community-owned grocery store to Hamilton has gathered “new momentum” after organizers of the Mustard Seed Co-op announced the location they have secured for the project.
At an event at the Staircase Café Theatre on Friday night, organizers revealed the co-op will sprout in a building at 460 York Blvd.
"It was a fantastic evening," Graham Cubitt, president of the Mustard Seed Co-op, told CBC Hamilton on Saturday morning. "There was a really positive energy."
The location announcement, he said, has led to renewed excitement about the Mustard Seed project.
"It’s getting people confident that this is going to go forward. This has translated into new momentum."
The co-op, Cubitt said, has netted 12 new memberships, each costing $100 per household, on Saturday morning alone.
Mustard Seed now has a total of about 620 members, Cubitt said, and aims to tally a total of at least 800.
"We’re pretty confident that we’ll exceed that, but that’s been our goal all along."
Friday night’s event also yielded $60,000 in loans from local investors, including an infusion of $50,000 from Hamilton art gallery owner Graham Crawford.
"The foundational part of it is that I genuinely respect and admire what their vision is," said Crawford, a former management consultant. "It’s basically going to help so many people spend their money wisely in terms of food and nutrition."
He added: "The other part that was equally important as an investor is that I know the players and I trust them. They’re solid, reputable people with high standards."
Cubitt said the loan program — which offers an average interest rate of 3.5 per cent per year over a four-year term — is way in which the co-op can raise capital while offering Hamiltonians an opportunity to invest in their own city.
"It’s a way for people with a bit money to do something with it locally," he said. "And for members, it’s like investing in your own business."
Opening planned for late fall
The Mustard Seed project stared in Spring 2012, when organizers put out a survey asking Hamiltonians their thoughts on what they'd like to see in a new co-operative grocery store. The intention of the project, Cubitt said, is to provide another option for people who wish to buy locally grown, healthy foods.
Cubitt said he hopes the store will be ready to open its doors by Nov. 29, exactly one year after organizers started the membership drive.
The York Boulevard site isn't the first location organizers had considered. Cubitt said the group had come close to snagging a different site in April, but were not successful.
"The [York Boulevard] location had been on our radar for a longtime," he added. "It just wasn’t available."
Cubitt said Mustard Seed organizers later came to a "mutually agreeable" deal with owners of the Grace Food Market to take over the space and purchase the store’s equipment.
He would not divulge the details of the agreement.
"The spot is really ideal for" for several reasons, Cubitt said. "It’s a good proximity to many of our members, not just those who live downtown."
The location, he added, is on major bus routes and boasts a 20-space parking lot.
"It really has all of the elements that work well for the members and that will make our business viable."