With a site in hand, grocery co-op begins ‘all out blitz’ to double membership

The years-long search to bring an independent grocery store to Long Beach took a large step toward becoming a reality last week after the organizers behind the Long Beach Grocery Co-op announced they had found a tentative location.

Damon Lawrence, the executive director of the co-op, told the Post that the group has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Century Housing to occupy a bottom-floor unit of The Beacon housing development that was recently completed at the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Anaheim Street.

The Beacon is one of the most recent city efforts to build affordable housing near the Downtown core. The $80 million project includes two structures, Beacon Place and Beacon Pointe, with 121 affordable senior units and 39 supportive housing units. It could also soon hold the city’s first grocery co-op.

Lawrence said he’s excited about the potential partnership because one the group’s key goals was to provide quality, affordable groceries to areas of town that are in “food deserts” where fresh, healthy foods are scarce. While the group had scouted locations across the city, Lawrence said the Beacon is an ideal fit for what the co-op hopes to represent.

“We’re not in a location where people already have full access,” Lawrence said of the potential of being located at The Beacon. “The accessibility to Downtown and how Downtown is being developed and them not having this type of grocery store close to them, they would be able to just get on the metro, go shop and go home via the Metro.”

Long Beach could soon have its first grocery co-op

But first the co-op has a lot of work to do.

It must double its current membership from about 400 members to 800 members and it has just four months to accomplish that. Becoming a member of the co-op will cost someone $250, a total that the group allows to be paid over a span of time or in one lump sum.

Members and employees hold shares in the business, with each membership ensuring a vote on issues pertaining to day-to-day operations and on how profits should be spent.

If they’re able to get to 800 members before the mid-June deadline, then it will start another four-month process of gathering capital investments to open the store. The cost is a projected to be $1.4 million, according to Lawrence.

“We know that this is definitely possible,” he said, acknowledging that other co-ops in the country have had to surpass larger capital campaign goals. “We’ll be working on the capital campaign right away. I think in a city the size of Long Beach it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Lawrence said that one of the biggest problems the group had, aside from explaining what a co-op is, was answering the question of where it would be located. Until last week the group had no real definitive answer.

But after a year of negotiations with Century Housing, they were able to strike a tentative agreement where the space will be blocked out for the next four months while the co-op seeks additional members. A representative from Century Housing was not able to be reached for comment.

Lawrence said it’s going to be an “all-out blitz” to double its membership where the co-op will be asking current members to serve as surrogates and recruit additional members.

“What we want people to know is what this means, what it means for Long Beach and what the possibilities are going forward with the co-op and having this kind of business structure in the city which Long Beach is sorely missing,” Lawrence said.

 

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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