If everything goes according to plan, the village of Gold River could finally have a grocery store by the end of this year.
The Gold River Co-op, which got its incorporation papers in late August, is in the middle of a membership drive and hoping to get a minimum of 100 members by their first annual general meeting. At that point they should have enough money from prospective members to start moving forward with opening a grocery store for the village.
Right now there is no grocery store in the village and there hasn’t been for at least five years. Since 2016, Gold Riverites have had to drive 90 km through the mountains to Campbell River on a weekly basis for their basic food needs.
“There’s what they call the deli, which is a convenience store that has basically been the supply of groceries in town for a number of years now,” said David Humphrey, one of the founding board members of the Gold River Co-op. “Most people go out to Campbell River and spend at least $30 a trip to get groceries on a weekly basis. The village of Gold River is going to be growing quite a bit in the next one-and-a-half to two years and we really need a grocery store for that to happen.
This is not the first push to get a grocery store for the village. Humphrey said that previous attempts may have left some negative connotations, but that “we didn’t want to let us stop us from trying to get something worthwhile going here.”
The group decided to go with the co-op model for a couple of reasons, first it means they do not need one operator with enough money to open a grocery store, and secondly it allows them to give back to the community.
“This way it’s community owned and community operated,” Humphrey said. “We think we can do it better as a community… if you’re just a normal, regular retail store, one person gets to decide where the money goes and everything else. In the co-op, it is the same thing. The members are the owners, so you get a full understanding of where the community wants to go. We think that’s a valuable thing to have.”
Members will also help make a lot of the decisions when it comes to the operation and model that the co-op follows. For example, they will be able to decide what kinds of foods will be available. Also, the membership will help make bigger decisions like whether or not to be a part of Federated Co-operatives Limited, which operates Co-op gas bars and grocery stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, or to go for a more independent model.
“It doesn’t really matter which way we go. The end goal is to get a grocery store in Gold River,” Humphrey said. “We started out by ourselves because we had no alternative at the time. We went though the coop association’s first stage of their teaching program, filling us in on exactly how things work… We’re not leaving any stone unturned. We want to get the best and quickest thing going here.”
The co-op is looking for 50 more members by the end of November. Memberships are $300, and all monies will go towards opening the store. Those interested can sign up at the Gold River Co-op Facebook page.