East Lansing Food Co-op Considers Old Country Market Site

The East Lansing Food Co-operative Inc. (ELFCo) is considering a move to the vacant, 10,000-square foot Country Market building in downtown East Lansing. If the co-op takes over the building, which was vacated in December 2007, its floor space will triple.

According to excerpts from the article:

"It's just a much better location for us," General Manager Dave Finet said. "The size will be a challenge. We're going to have to both explain to our own satisfaction and for the landlord how we're going to get the kind of community involvement to grow and how quickly we can do that."

The co-op, known for its organic and locally grown produce, could fill a void created when Country Market shuttered its 10,000-square-foot store Dec. 31, 2007. The store was an anchor for the Brookfield Plaza shopping center at Hagadorn Road and Grand River Avenue.

The closing led some area residents to begin lobbying specialty food chain Trader Joe's Co. to look at the space. Chain officials said they weren't yet interested in opening shop in the Lansing area.

The co-op still could face competition for the high-profile site. The location should be desirable because of solid area demographics and traffic on Grand River Avenue, said Tim Dempsey, East Lansing community and economic development administrator.

Brookfield Plaza owner Robert Phipps did not return a message seeking comment.

East Lansing resident Christine Beavers, who lives a few blocks away in the Wardcliff neighborhood, said the store would fit in well.

Beavers, a co-op member, said she frequents plaza tenants Grand Traverse Pie Co. and Biggby Coffee. "It couldn't get much better for me to have my co-op, my pie and my coffee at the same place," she said.

A move for the co-op would mean leaving the building at 4960 Northwind Drive in Meridian Township it bought in August 2007. But it also could mark a milestone in the co-op's health.

Last year was the first profitable year for the co-op since at least 2000, Finet said. And sales continue to grow.

Finet expects to take the issue to the co-op's board Thursday and possibly to its 4,000 members at its April 19 annual meeting. Members could be asked then to allow the co-op's board to pursue a deal.

Read the entire article here.

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