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Good two weeks lead up to grand opening

Littleton Co-op

Co-op board members, bankers, contractors and town officials all participate in cutting the ribbon at the newly opened Littleton Co-op last week. Art McGrath. (click for larger version)
June 03, 2009
LITTLETON–Meeting or exceeding all its expectations so far, the Littleton Co-op is poised for a great future.

That was the message for those present at the ribbon cutting last week at the new store built at the corner of Cottage Street and Bethlehem Road. It is currently the only other supermarket in Littleton other than Shaw's.

The store held a "soft-opening" May 13 without fanfare in order to train the staff and break the store in before last week's grand opening.

Under a light drizzle some members of the public watched co-op board members, contractors, bankers and representatives of other food co-ops cut the ribbon. During the ceremony other customers walked by, glancing curiously but otherwise continuing shopping. The store had already been open two weeks before its grand opening, after all.

Board member Jeff Wheeler noted just before the ribbon cutting that the 13,500 square foot store was a long time coming.

"This is a great moment," Wheeler said as he looked around. Several people had scissors to cut the ribbon, many keeping pieces of it as a souvenir.

Inside the store there were people shopping and taking advantage of the food products available to sample, including cheeses and pastries.

Co-op manager Bob Hayes said sales in the store are at or above expectations, while memberships have far exceeded expectations. Memberships have doubled in just a few weeks from 1,500 to 3,000, he said. The number far exceeds what organizers were expecting, he added.

"We have people coming in all the time asking about memberships," Hayes said.

Memberships are received by buying one share in the co-op at $25 a share, he said. To be a full voting member one must buy four shares, Hayes said. A membership is not needed to shop in the store, however. The only financial benefit is an end of year reimbursement based on how much one spends in the store and what kind of profits the store made during the year.

"We don't expect to be paying out reimbursements for a few years," Hayes said.

He said among the great advantages of his store over a large supermarket will be superior customer service, a great variety of local products and fresh seafood delivered six days a week. As local products come into season they will be bought directly from farmers.

The store is a hybrid store, which means it will sell a combination of organic products and standard grocery store brands.

The co-op has a large area on one end on which a 6,000 square foot expansion can be added. That expansion won't happen until the store is solidly established and doing well, Hayes said.

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