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June 28, 2018

Blue Hill Co-op to break ground for larger store

Courtesy / Blue Hill Cooperative
Courtesy / Blue Hill Cooperative
An artist's rendering shows what the Blue Hill Cooperative's planned new and larger store on South Street will look like after it's built.

The Blue Hill Cooperative plans to build a new and larger store on South Street, with close proximity to Blue Hill's downtown.

"We plan to break ground after Labor Day with the goal of a soft opening in June 2019, followed by a grand opening in July 2019," General Manager Kevin Gadsby told the Ellsworth American.

The Blue Hill Co-op is seeking loans of $4 million, in addition to a $2 million owner investment to finance improvements to the purchased 5.5-acre parcel, design and construct a freestanding storefront, purchase inventory and equipment, and provide working capital for growth and development.

Blue Hill Planning Board Chairman Scott Miller told the newspaper that the board might consider approving the project at its July 9 meeting, after holding a public hearing on the application.

The co-op also has selected E.L. Shea of Ellsworth as general contractor.

Co-op is growing

Courtesy / Blue Hill Cooperative
Courtesy / Blue Hill Cooperative
A rendering of what the interior will look like when the new co-op store is completed in Blue Hill.

According to the co-op's website, the co-op is building a new store to expand retail and café space, which will include a new community room for member-owner and public use. The expansion is expected to provide additional jobs, tax revenue and more opportunities for local farmers and vendors.

According to the co-op's 2018 business plan, the co-op opened as a food buying club in 1974 and is structured as a consumer cooperative. The co-op has more than 1,700 active owners who invest $200 in the business and make at least one purchase a year. Owners receive a patronage rebate when the co-op's elected board of directors decides the amount of profit is high enough and the financial needs of the business are low enough to warrant a distribution.

Operating for more than 43 years in leased spaces, the co-op spent the last seven years preparing to relocate. The plan is to construct a custom-designed, energy-efficient expanded storefront on land the coop owns in the South Street commercial area. Owner equity and retained earnings financed the planning stages for a new building.

Owner membership has grown 21% in the last five years, with 2017 being a record year for new memberships, at 317. To date, the co-op has 1,775 owners.

The expansion is expected to increase the number of customers and increase the average purchase amount through:

  • Expansion of available parking.
  • Reduction of congestion in the store.
  • Greater selection of products, including locally produced items and local produce
  • Reduction in product prices derived from increased buying power.

The co-op anticipates that the new store in its first full year of business after construction will significantly improve its annual gross sales.

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