The shelves are stocked, the freezers are filled and the food co-op Elm City Marketis finally slated to open in two to three weeks.
Though its launch has been delayed — Elm City Market was originally scheduled to open in March — general manager Mark Regni said the co-op, located inthe 360 State Street development, took a relatively short time to develop compared to similar ventures elsewhere. Though he declined to disclose an official opening date, Regni said itwill open either in the last week of October or in the first week of November.
Delays plagued the co-op from the start. Originally predicted to open in March, the co-op did not secure its $7 million of financing until April.
“It would have been nice to open before school started,” said Amy Christensen, the head of public relations and design for Elm City Market and Regni’s wife. She added that construction delays have pushed back opening by about eight weeks.
But Elm City Market did not take nearly as long to create as many other co-ops, said Regni, who has founded 29 other co-ops and grocery stores. He said it usually takes years or even decades, while Elm City Market has only been in the works for a year.
Co-ops are businesses owned by members who operate it in such a way that meets members’ needs. Members also elect a board of directors from among themselves to hire and guide the general manager of the co-op.
Elm City Marketalready has nearly 700 members, Regni said, and he expects that number to triple by the end of the year, once the store opens and customers can see what they are buying into.
Elm City Market is located on the ground floor of 360 State Street, developed by Yale alum Bruce Becker ARC ’85 MBA ’85,who also serves as volunteer chairman of the co-op’s elected board. The apartment is over 84 percent occupied, with over 600 people currently living there.
“The residents are counting down the days until [the co-op] opens,” said Becker. “[But] there’s incredible enthusiasm from the whole community, not just 360 State Street.”
Regni said he expects the co-op to create 100 jobs in New Haven, and he is already training employees for 70filled positions.Approximately 30 of these employees will work as foodservice staffers at the co-op’s deli, sandwich bar and hot food bar.Elm City Market will also feature a 32-seat cafe so customers can dine in the co-op, because “we want it to be a social experience,” said Regni.
As a co-op, Elm City Market will neutralize the high prices of natural food by relying on wholesalers who charge less money than distributional middlemen, Regni and Christensensaid.
“We’re only trying to be sustainable, not to make a huge profit,” said Regni, adding that he believes the co-op will remain competitive among New Haven grocers. “We’re here to satisfy our community and members, not to please Wall Street.”
Regni said the co-op has made an effort to stock local artisanal products,such as New Haven’s own Nate’s Naturals granola, Judie’s European Baked Goods and Palmieri pasta sauce. Nate Price of Nate’s Naturals said in an email that he is happy that Elm City Market is committed to supporting local vendors and connecting them with a new network of customers.
“I think people will be impressed by how inexpensive things are here,” Becker said. “We’re nourishing the city: the economy, the peopleand the sense of democracy.”
There are two payment plans available for individuals and families seeking to become members of the co-op, each of which require a total payment of $200. Elm City Market also offers a reduced payment plan to prospective members with limited incomes.