The Hillsboro Food Co-op reached another milestone last week as the grocery store startup gained its 500th owner-member.
A recent uptick in membership propelled the co-op over the hurdle, according to owner-member and former board member Elisa Joy Payne.
Payne said having 500 owner-members shows there is sufficient community demand for the store, which will offer fresh, locally grown food at an affordable price.
With the feasibility stage finished, the co-op can start planning how to open the store.
"This kind of gets us to the point that starts a lot of big stuff," Payne said. "In our goals to opening day that our consultants at the national level have recommended, this is the halfway mark."
Co-op members annually receive surplus revenue from the store's sales because there are no outside shareholders or corporate CEOs.
The co-op will soon begin a capital campaign to see what owner-members might be willing to invest more in the store. Members who invest will still have the same level of influence as all other members.
Payne said the capital campaign will give community members a rare opportunity to invest in a local company. Multiple people have already expressed interest in investing, she said.
Funds raised in the capital campaign will allow the co-op to hire its first employee, a general manager, and select a location for the store.
With a general manager, the co-op can start planning details that are often the most important to members.
"That general manager will come in and help us figure out a little more what our membership wants the store to look like," Payne said. "What kinds of things do they want to have in it. One thing a lot of members talk about is a really big bulk section because then there can be less waste and it can be more affordable."
From the beginning, founding members have said they want the store to be accessible to people with lower incomes. It's $200 to become an owner-member, and "there's a lot of people who just can't write a $200 check," Payne said.
Board president Brandon Iwasaki said he doesn't want the cost of membership to be a barrier, and that people who can't pay all at once can enter a payment plan.
"We want to make sure the co-op is available to all community members," Iwasaki said. "That's very important to us."
Hillsboro Food Co-op leadership has been working with national organizations such as the Food Co-op Initiative, a Minnesota-based nonprofit, since the beginning. Although people have been working to establish the co-op for more than five years, Payne said people at the national organizations have said the Hillsboro Food Co-op is right on track compared to other similar start-ups.
The co-op is holding a potluck and party at Rood Bridge Park from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6 to celebrate reaching the 500 owner-member marker. The event will give members an opportunity to meet other members and hear a presentation from the board and outreach team.
A previous version of this story mischaracterized how surplus funds at the food co-op will be distributed to members.
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