Kootenay Country Co-op Store has come a long way since those days in the Vallican schoolhouse when we split up cases of mayonnaise and boxes of figs to the tune of Love the One You’re With.
Now we’re bursting at the seams of the Baker Street location, patrons and staff are twisting sideways to pass in the narrow aisles, and well over $10 million per year passes through the till.
It’s a co-op success story without equal in Canada, a quintessential expression of the Kootenay spirit.
The time to expand has surely come. The opportunity is there, the building and the land have been secured. There is energy and vision. So why has nothing happened?
Hold on, some may say, quite a bit has happened. We’ve designed a whole new building, with extra retail space and 56 residential units. Almost half have been sold. Everything is contemporary and state of the art.
The wrecking ball is poised and swinging, we just need a little more indulgence on the part of our financiers. The glass is half full.
Or is it?
I for one remain unconvinced. Despite a relentless marketing campaign, reaching far beyond the local area, sales have stalled. There’s a move afoot to magnify financial risk and restructure the financing. The intention to demolish a solid building rather than refurbish can hardly be considered a green choice.
The residential aspect of this initiative must be self-financing and self-supporting. Already a debt to cover marketing costs, including a full colour page in Common Ground’s July issue, promising occupancy by fall 2015, is owed to the co-op. I wonder how large this figure is getting to be and when the hyperbole will stop.
I was never a booster of this project; from the beginning, however, I have been willing to let my normally conservative self take a back seat to what seemed like a project that had many supporters, and let the progress of sales inform my opinion.
At this point I can only conclude that many, like me, feel the time is not right for the Nelson Commons. The project is too ambitious, grandiose even, and the co-op leadership should focus on turning the Vernon Street property into a quality market that will serve the needs of the membership and the community at large.
It takes drive, vision, and guts to conceive of and move forward a project like the Nelson Commons, and I admire the people who have brought it this far. They have made their case, but it remains unconvincing.
The real commons, the one all members share in, is our market and the food procurement and distribution system that makes it work. In this we all have a stake, and we must not allow anything to jeopardize what we have worked so diligently to create.
Anthony Arnold, Riondel