By Jon Bishop
MAYNARD -- The Assabet Village Food Cooperative, which will be located in Maynard, wants to be a store for the entire MetroWest and, appropriately enough, the Assabet Valley, according to Nichole Felix, a member of the Board of Directors.
"We always knew it would be much more than a Maynard initiative," she said. "A lot of people talk about how they may have a grocery store in their existing community, but they're still drawn to (shop in) another community...especially people who have a little bit more specific needs."
Added Felix: "I think we're envisioning people who are supporting the co-op are willing to go a few extra miles to shop at a place they really believe in."
To the people behind the co-op, Assabet Village is not just a grocery store.
"We think about it as a community space as well," she said.
Which is why, though they are still in the early stages of design, they're hoping the store will have a cafe and space for classes.
"That certainly makes it a lot more worthwhile," she said.
They will also take advantage of the fact that the area has so many farmers.
"We're all aware that we're very lucky to have so many local producers," she said, noting that there are a lot of farms that raise meat, dairy, eggs, produce. "That will certainly be a huge focus, as far as the store is concerned."
She said they anticipate featuring the farms from which their products come, allowing customers to connect to farmers.
But they are also realists: "We also understand, too, that there are certain products ... (that) don't grow in Massachusetts."
Thus they will supplement local products with products elsewhere, she said.
"We'll have a wholesale connection as well," she said.
They have not yet set prices, but Felix did note that "a food co-op is not going to typically be able to match" the low prices of a chain store.
"We wouldn't be able to match their volume," she said.
She stressed, too, that "it's not really our goal to get the lowest price possible" from a farmer.
"We're not necessarily looking at the cheapest option always," she said.
But customers will still have ways to save, especially if they become owners.
"We expect...that we would have owners-only sales or perhaps coupons," she said.
To become an owner, a customer would pay a one-time fee of $200, which would either be done at once or in installments.
She said anybody in a household can shop on the owner's card.
"That said, we have a few households that have multiple owners," she said.
Owners, in addition to sales, coupons, and a return on shopping at the end of the year, would also get to vote on store matters.
"We have annual meetings," she said. "This year, we'll be electing the Board of Directors."
Right now, they don't have a cutoff for potential owners. When the store opens, they figure they'll have somewhere between 800 to 1,000 owners, she said.
"We completely expect that we'll continue to grow after we open the doors," she said.
Felix said the benefit of a co-op is that it has a "farmer's market feel" but with grocery store convenience.
It's also community-focused, she said.
"As an owner, we're all working together," she said. "It's just another community that you're a part of."
She said they have owners from Harvard. They have also visited the town twice -- during the Apple Blossom Festival and at an event at the Harvard General Store -- and have received nothing but positive feedback.
"We've been really encouraged," she said.
Those looking for more information can visit their Facebook page or their website, which is located here: http://assabetvillagecoop.com/.
The store will open in either 2016 or 2017.
Follow Jon on Twitter and Tout: @JonBishopNP.