Over 150 people of all ages gathered Friday night for the grand opening of Citizens Co-op. This new community-owned food market, 435 S. Main Street, opened three days before on July 12 after more than three years of planning.
The Smokin’ Mullet was there with samples of their smoked mullet fish dip, the Pelican Brothers were there with their truck serving food and patrons could enjoy craft beers from both Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, Fla.) and Swamp Head Brewery (Gainesville, Fla.)
Music started around 8:30 p.m. with performances by Coffee Project, Lindsey Mills, Dikembe and Sleeping Spiders.
Jasmine Angelini-Knoll, team leader and member of the co-op, said she recognized some familiar faces from the first few opening days, some new faces and some members at the event.
The co-op, which is similar to an everyday farmers’ market, has about 800 members, but the public can shop there as well. Becoming a member means buying a small share in the business, whether as a consumer, producer or employee, and is a one-time cost of $100.
“It’s very exciting and wonderful to see all these people of all ages here,” Cheryl Poe, a member of the co-op, said. “I hope it brings in new members and they come often to shop.”
Poe became a member three years ago when she learned that Gretchen McIntyre, co-op founder and accounting and finance manager, and Elizabeth Nesbit, co-op founder, employee member representative and co-op manager, were planning on starting the co-op here in Gainesville.
“I feel that it’s important for our community to have a local co-op,” Poe said. “It’s important to help give a strong sense of community to growers, environmentally it’s good to reduce our carbon footprint and overall I think it’s a great thing.”
The co-op’s goal is to provide members and the community with as much locally grown produce as they can get, said James Steele, producer member representative and vice chair of the board of directors. Locally grown means within 150 miles from Gainesville, however, Steele said that in between seasons can be a difficult time period.
“My job is to be up on what’s local,” Steele said. “I’ve been a grower for 43 years so I know what’s in season and my first priority is to support all the families that are growing and keep money in the community.”
In terms of “big hopes,” Steele and Citizens Co-op would like to open satellite stores in Melrose, Hawthorne and other surrounding areas. For now, however, they are focusing on the opening of their first store and ensuring a success.
“I love it,” Steele said.”We knew the opening would be packed. We have over 800 members and we knew they’d be here because this is their store, and that’s the nice thing about it.”
The co-op is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 pm. For more information, visit http://www.citizensco-op.com/.