Natural Foods Co-op Celebrates Expansion

The+Co-op%E2%80%99s+8-month-long+endeavor+has+paid+off%2C++with+expanded+departments+and+a+50+percent+increase+of+retail+floor+space.+
The Co-op’s 8-month-long endeavor has paid off,  with expanded departments and a 50 percent increase of retail floor space.

The Co-op’s 8-month-long endeavor has paid off, with expanded departments and a 50 percent increase of retail floor space.

The Co-op’s 8-month-long endeavor has paid off, with expanded departments and a 50 percent increase of retail floor space.

By NINA CALLAHAN

The phrase “grocery store” does not encapsulate the dynamic environment of the Co-op. Founded in the 1970s, the space has been a pillar of the Middlebury town for both college students and locals. For members, there are constant deals on ever changing products, and for all shoppers the selection of items continually rotates. From prepared foods to household objects, the Co-op carries products that incorporate aspects of environmental protection and social justice. Certifications of “fair-trade” and “organic” are ubiquitous at the store, representing the store’s core values. Furthermore, these qualities attract high membership involvement and partnerships with various Vermont based companies. These strong relationships have led to the transformation of the Middlebury Co-op.

An 8-month-long endeavor has increased the physical size of the space from 5,000 to 9,000 square feet, strengthening the presence of the Co-op. Middlebury locals witnessed the beginnings of the renovation this past summer. Many individuals have remarked on the improved flow and movement within the space. The larger entrance, increased number of aisles, expanded seating areas, and growth of the prepared food section have allowed the space to flourish. The community aspect of the Co-op has only been augmented by its renovation, creating more spaces for people to congregate with friends and family.

In addition to strengthening relationships, the expansion has allowed the Co-op to bring more healthy, sustainable, food to town members. The additional space allows the store to find creative, cutting edge products for its shelves. New features include an aisle devoted to alcoholic beverages as well as the enlargement of the kitchen area. In addition to the cheese section, more available ‘to-go’ options have provided customers with an experiential way to taste items from around the world.

The Co-op has also brought in local producers of items like granola bars to offer tastings for shoppers. In doing so, they not only support the local economy but also bring the individual closer to what they consume. Many have remarked that the Co-op has dramatically changed their interaction with food.

Blake Yaccino ‘20 explained that the cheese selection has provided her with an educational experience to learn about the various types, processes and locations of producers and gain knowledge about the importance of the dairy industry in Vermont. When asked what words come to mind when she thinks of the Co-op Yaccino stated, “healthy, wholesome and welcoming.” She is very happy to see that the new renovations, in particular the indoor seating area, have made it a more spacious environment.

Regular customers hope the Co-op continues to bring in additional food entrepreneurs in the coming year as healthy eating remains a staple to the town community and the state of Vermont. Supporting community initiatives through grocery shopping exists as the crux of the Co-op’s mission statement. Interaction with local business owners enables shoppers to learn more about what they are eating as well as develop relationships with the creative, hard-working, minds behind the store’s products. Furthermore, shoppers at the Co-op are able to personalize certain products such as items from the salad bar, smoothie counter and prepared food section. The store always has many options for any individual, regardless of dietary restrictions.

The Co-op transcends the label of your average store by bringing various foods and community members together. By acting as a bridge between consumers and products, the Co-op possesses the agency to improve our communal food system, guiding the food movement in Middlebury for years to come.

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Natural Foods Co-op Celebrates Expansion