The Columbus Food Co-op is continuing its efforts to secure $750,000 that will be used to open a grocery store next year on Central Avenue.

A capital campaign was launched in September at the future home of the food co-op, 1580 Central Ave., where an 8,400-square-foot, full-service grocery store is expected to open in the third quarter of 2018, said April Williams, campaign manager for the Columbus Food Co-op.

The member-owned food co-op has raised $92,000 of its $750,000 campaign goal — about 12 percent — so far, said Williams, who expressed optimism in meeting the goal.

The overall project is estimated to cost $2.1 million, with other funding coming in the form of bank loans.

“I’ve been inspired by those dedicated to making this store happen,” Williams said. “One owner told us that even though she had lost her job, she believed in the need for the co-op so deeply, she still wanted to give $50.”

The first phase of the capital campaign has had unexpected benefits, including gaining a better understanding of the needs of current co-op owners and other individuals in Columbus, Williams said.

“We’ve learned there is still room for more education,” she said. “Though cooperatives are not a new concept, many still don’t fully understand the positive impacts they make in a community. In the second phase of our campaign, we can provide more information to consistently educate our owners and interested community members.”

That next phase of the campaign will include events at its future location, said Mike Johnston, co-op board president.

“We want to give our owners, prospective owners and interested members of the community a chance to see the potential of this space, to ask questions about the co-op and to have more opportunities to make financial contributions,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t exactly know what the co-op is,” said Anita Doyle, outreach coordinator for the co-op and a member since April.

Nearly 1,000 individuals and families have joined the co-op by purchasing ownership shares at a cost of $90. Johnston said he hopes to have 1,500 members by the time the store opens.

The co-op now has the ability to accept tax-deductible donations, which people had requested, Johnston said.

The location of the food co-op is expected to benefit families in the area, said Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator with the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center. The LCNFC has identified five families who will be able to take advantage of memberships that have been gifted to the organization, Doup said.

The availability of the co-op also helps fill a need in the area.

“It is a wonderful way for everyone in the community to embrace the concept of the co-op and encourage people to shop there,” Doup said. “A downtown grocery store has been a void in the Lincoln-Central neighborhood … and it is really a win-win for our neighborhood.”

The food co-op, which expects to create more than 25 jobs, plans to purchase $500,000 in food from regional farmers located within a 100-mile radius during its first year of operation, Johnston said.

“We will provide a year-round outlet for local farm products and make those products available to our customers in an attractive, modern, full-service grocery store,” Johnston said.

How to donate

Donations toward the Columbus Food Co-op capital campaign can be made by e-mailing info@columbusmarket.coop.

For more information, call campaign manager April Williams at 812-343-2841 or visit columbusmarket.coop.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com