A nonprofit group in Ticonderoga is trying to do in the next several years what a group of five families in Cambridge accomplished during the 1970s.
“We started as just five families trying to save money on quality food, and it just went from there,” said Mary Crowe, one of the founders of the Cambridge Food Co-Op, which was established in 1976 as a nonprofit, member-owned and member-run operation.
The store, at 1 West Main St., operates as most co-ops do, with members paying dues and pitching in a certain number of hours a month in exchange for a discount on their food. In Cambridge’s case, that food is often local and organic, and is drawing more and more customers to the store.
While the Cambridge store covers southern Washington County, northern Washington County is among the target areas for a co-op food store still in the planning stages in Ticonderoga.
The nonprofit group, Pride of Ticonderoga, recently completed a study of its market area that says the region’s population, with summer visitors factored in, makes Ticonderoga a good spot for a co-op. Other factors favoring a co-op include the lack of other sources for natural and organic food and the experience of co-ops in similar areas. Sharon Reynolds of Pride of Ticonderoga, who administered the study, said the single most important aspect of forming a successful co-op is finding an experienced manager.
She said the three sites the group is looking at are in downtown Ticonderoga, and establishment of a co-op there would also give residents of northern Washington County towns, such as Putnam, Dresden and Whitehall, better access to natural foods.
“The idea is for everyone to meet and learn about cooperatives and how they function in a community,” Reynolds said in a press release. “This would be a grassroots effort like no other, and we need energetic individuals who are passionate about access to fresh, local, organic and healthy food.”
In between the proposed co-op in Ticonderoga and the longtime store in Cambridge is the Glens Falls Food Co-Op, which will celebrate its first anniversary in May at 1338 Route 9 in Moreau, and is continuing to grow, according to Ben Lapham, president of the board of directors.
“We’re over 100 members at this point, and we’re happy about that,” Lapham said, “We’re still proving out the model and working out the kinks. We’re busy increasing the market by adding to our products.”
The Glens Falls co-op focuses on local goods.
“We just picked up some frozen chickens from Whipple Tree Farms in Gansevoort,” Lapham said. “We’re really working on a three-tier system. We get what we can from the immediate area, then from the region, and if we have to, we reach out farther into New York state or neighboring states.”
When the group first started to get together to talk about a co-op, the hope was to locate it in the city. But Matt Funiciello of Rock Hill Bakehouse offered space in the shopping center where his bakery is located.
“That’s where we are right now. Matt was kind enough to donate the space,” Lapham said.
For years, the Cambridge Co-op was located in Hubbard Hall, where it moved several years after the families got it started. Three years ago, it moved to the new space and has continued to grow.
“We’re seeing more and more people come in, people who are local but didn’t come into the old store,” Crowe said Monday, after heading home following a morning of inventory at the store. “We all do our part. It’s fun.”
“We have been, in a way, the village grocery for a lot of people,” she added. “People are happy to find good quality food in a small community.”
One of the strengths of the Cambridge co-op is its wide variety of local organic foods, such as beef from White Clover Farm in Argyle, live microgreens from Destination Euphoria Greenhouse in Cambridge and fresh milk from Battenkill Dairy in Salem.