Hillsboro Food Co-Op hits milestone
Work to bring a grocery store to downtown Hillsboro hit a major milestone this week.
More than 300 people have invested in the formation of the Hillsboro Food Cooperative, a years-long effort to open a co-op grocer in the city's downtown.
According to the Co-op, 331 people have purchased equity shares of the organization as of Feb. 12, giving them part-ownership in the prospective market, which hopes to open within the next few years.
"We are excited to continue growing (our) membership," Hillsboro Food Co-op board member Brandon Iwasaki said, but the group is focused on the next phase of the organization, including a market study to determine what the store would eventually look like.
According to the cooperative, the membership is the first significant milestone in creating the community-owned supermarket. The organization has been working for years to open a community-owned grocery store in downtown.
If built, the organization would function similarly to other area grocery stores, but with one unique difference: The shop's customers would be part-owners of the store, and would elect a board of directors to run the grocery.
Instead, organizers say, surplus revenue can be returned to owners in the form of dividends or invested back into the co-op.
The 300-member milestone is important, organizers say, because it shows there is adequate interest in the community for the co-op. From here, organizers can begin conducting feasibility studies.
Once the co-op reaches 500 members, Board President Elisa Joy Payne said, the organization can start looking at finding land to build the store.
"We're getting ready for a lot of stuff to happen this year," Payne said Tuesday. "It's exciting, after what seems like slow progress. If we continue at the speed we're going, we could be hiring a general manager and finding a site for the store this time next year."
The organization was founded in 2013 to open a community-owned grocery store in downtown Hillsboro. Organizers say they see the co-op as more than just a grocery store, but as a community gathering space that can help connect people with their local farmers.
"We want it to be a hub for the community," Payne said. "Our business model isn't about profit, so we want to be that space where people can gather around food and feel like they can get good trustworthy, sustainably-sourced food at a place they can trust. That really is what we can offer to the community."
Stephanie Haugen and Travis Loose contributed to this report