City Nonprofit Group To Launch Grocery Buying Club
By Kenneth R. Gosselin
April 13, 2010
Determined to bring grocery shopping to downtown Hartford, the nonprofit group that has renovated the historic building at 410 Asylum St. for housing isn't waiting to find the right operator for a market.
In the next month, Common Ground will launch a grocery "buying club" that allows members — primarily downtown residents and workers — to order groceries online and pick them up at a street-level storefront in the building every two weeks or get them delivered.
Common Ground hopes the effort will show potential store operators that there is a demand for grocery shopping in downtown Hartford and help pave the way for a true green grocer.
Katy Frankel, development director for the project, said Common Ground firmly believes that the need exists.
"People are going to be floored when they see people coming out of our building with fruits and vegetables, soap and detergent," Frankel said.
Common Ground continues to talk with potential operators for the grocery store, which it envisions as a "co-op," where everyone can shop, but members get a discount, Frankel said.
The city is so eager to bring a grocery store downtown that it is considering boosting by $100,000 — to $250,000 — start-up money that the city would contribute to a grocery store project it considers viable, according to David E. Panagore, the city's chief operating officer.
In addition to Common Ground, Northland Investment Corp. wants to open an upscale grocer, focused on prepared foods, at its luxury apartment tower, Hartford 21. Northland has said it is in talks with an operator, and already has spent $2 million preparing the space.
Common Ground has signed on with United Natural Foods, the organic and natural food wholesaler, for its buying club. United Natural Foods will take the orders and deliver them to a street-level storefront at 410 Asylum St, now known as The Hollander.
The arrangement is similar to Stop & Shop's "Peapod" service, which makes home deliveries and adds a charge.
Frankel said there is an as-yet undetermined membership fee, but members would pay wholesale prices.
Wholesale prices are typically less because they don't include markups by retailers.
All the staples — milk, eggs, bread, cheese, fruits, vegetables and paper goods — would be available, but there would be plenty of other choices: United Natural Foods has a 240-page print catalog, Frankel said.
At the same time, Common Ground also will participate in the "Grow Hartford" project, which allows people to buy "shares" in farms and receive fruits and vegetables over the course of a growing season. The Hollander would serve as a drop-off site.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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