The Community Carrot Co-op had three almost-locations fall through before finding success at 2063 Gottingen Street.
Since winning $115,000 start-up funding from the Aviva’s Community Fund last winter, the group of Haligonians committed to bringing healthy, affordable food (in the form of a co-operative grocery store) to the north end has been steadily hunting for the perfect location, with a check-list that included 2,000 square feet of street level space, a basement and back door accessibility for load ins.
“We were very clear from the beginning our commitment was to this specific neighbourhood, to be on or close to Gottingen Street was our absolute number one priority,” says Gwen McCauley, the project manager for the Carrot. “It has been a very big roller coaster ride for the team and our supporters but the upside has been that we've had a really tight core team working on this. When we'd feel like we didn't have any gas in the tank, people on the team would still be energized and it would buoy us all up.”
Despite those three disappointments, the deal at 2063 came together pretty quickly. After about six weeks of solidifying approvals, inspections and money to make it all work, the Community Carrot officially announced on Tuesday night that it had bought the building, thanks to a mortgage from Truro’s Community Credit Union, and some assistance from Halifax Community Investment Fund ($100,000) and the Vancity Resiliency Fund ($150,000). “The nature of the co-op as a thought process is all around openness, equality and sharing,” says McCauley. “We found it very hard to keep our big mouths shut about it.”
She expects that at the Community Carrot will be open for business in May, after taking over the building in March and spending some time on renovations. Currently, 2063 Gottingen Street is home to two independent stores, Kevin Muise Interiors and Mbuji-Mayi Market. Yesterday Muise announced that his shop will be taking over the larger 2091 Gottingen Street come March (The Futon Store, which is currently located there, will be moving to its former home at 5730 Young Street), expanding on his current selection and bringing tile and another designer into the mix.
“We've worked with Kevin and are working with Patricia [of Mbuji-Mayi Market] to help them find locations in the neighbourhood,” says McCauley of the current tenants. “We're trying to be as cooperative as possible.”
Though relatively small as far as grocery stores go, the Community Carrot aims to employ 10 to 12 people from the neighbourhood and will also offer classes on healthy eating and cooking. “We’ve made the decision that our focus is not on organic, we want to focus on the local,” says McCauley adding the Carrot will sell fresh fish and meat cut in-house, as well as produce and basic grocery needs. “Regular old food at a reasonable price—thats the niche we're looking to fill.”
While anyone will be welcome to shop at the Carrot, there will be the option to become a member, which McCauley says will be a roughly $25 a one-time fee. Co-op members will get access to deeper discounts and if the store turns a profit will vote to reinvest it or share it as a dividend.
“Nobody goes into the grocery business expecting to make big piles of money. The advantage is that a cooperative by definition is a form of social enterprise, we're not driven by the same need of making profits,” says McCauley. “We need enough money to cover our costs but our purpose is really to serve the grocery buying needs of this community and support its overall health, well being and food education.”
The Community Carrot Co-op holds a public community forum on the first Tuesday of every month at 2101-03 Gottingen Street at 6pm. Stop by to chime in, or to hear what's next in for the north end's newest addition.