The Mustard Seed Co-op has quickly gone from a dream to a growing reality, but there's still a long way to go before the new food store can open its doors, says co-founder Emma Cubitt.

"The more members we get right now, the better chance we have to open at our expected launch date, which is still May," she said.

The co-op aspires to launch a not-for-profit grocery store in downtown Hamilton that is owned and controlled by its members. Their focus would be on fresh, locally-sourced, organic, environmentally friendly and ethical food choices.

Since the launch of its membership campaign last fall, the co-op has attracted 250 members and around $60,000 in investments — but it's still a stretch to the goal of 800 members and $450,000 in investments. 

Cubitt says the group is working hard to maintain its momentum. "We're trying to stay positive. The big thing now is growing the investments."

Cubitt is especially hopeful community members or businesses will consider investing in the co-op in the form of a four-year loan of between $1,000 and $200,000.

"If someone has a little extra money, instead of investing in their RRSP or the stock market, they could invest in making Hamilton a better place," Cubitt said.

"We're calling it 'Locavesting:' investing in your community."

Potential locations

One way they hope to lure more members and investors is by securing a location. Some potential members may be reluctant to join until they know where the store will be located, and whether it will be convenient for them to get to.

The group has scouted local real estate and has narrowed down the choices to three downtown locations. The members are now weighing the pros and cons of each before signing a lease. Cubitt hopes they'll be able to announce the decision in the next few weeks.

The co-op has also started other necessary tasks, like purchasing fixtures for the store, so that it can move quickly once the location is finalized. Like the environmentally responsible products they hope to provide once the store launches, they've been making an effort to purchase fixtures that match the standards of the co-op, such as second-hand bulk bins from nearby sellers.

They've also compiled an online database of local farmers and producers to share with other grocery co-ops in Ontario.