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Co-Op prospers with bigger store

Emily Bodley, a muscian and checker, waits on customers. Emily Bodley, a muscian and checker, waits on customers.

The Hendersonville Community Co-op has “good problems,” said community outreach coordinator Gretchen Cummin. Sometimes the parking lot is full. Born as a buying club in 1978, the member-owned grocery is all grown up.

Co-Op members celebrated the new store on Wednesday — Earth Day — with a ribbon cutting, tours of the store, an acoustic duo and a craft beer created for the occasion by Southern Appalachian Brewery — the Co-Hop IPA.
If parking is the Co-Op’s “good problem,” it's because customer enthusiasm has intensified since the market moved from its cramped space on South Grove Street to the new 8,000-square-foot building on Spartanburg Highway. It's not only bigger, it's much more visible.
“What’s doing better than the old store? Everything,” said general manager Damian Tody. He listed the assets of the new store: a meat counter, deli, seafood, more produce, dine-in tables inside and outside, a hot bar and more. The move made the Co-op a job creator, too. The staff doubled, to 30.
The Co-Op incorporated in 1987 and opened its market on South Grove Street in 1992. In the past two years it raised $820,000 from members and donors to build the new store and financed the rest through the Self Help Credit Union, Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund, the Natural Capital Investment Fund, USDA and the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund.
“In order to get the loan from Self-Help they sold shares,” said Katie Breckheimer, a longtime member who is married to Co-op president Steve Breckheimer. “The people that bought shares made personal phone calls to say ‘Please come, because you made it possible.’ It was a sweet thing.”