The Columbus Food Co-op is continuing its push to raise $750,000 for a planned grocery store, with several open houses scheduled in January.

The food co-op, which launched a capital campaign in September, has raised $105,000 in its first phase to open a full-scale grocery store at 1580 Central Ave. in late 2018, said April Williams, campaign manager for the Columbus Food Co-op.

Columbus Food Co-op plans to lease 8,400 square feet of space in the building as part of its $2.3 million effort, with other funding coming from bank loans, Williams said.

“We really need help to create a bigger demand and help our local farmers,” she said.

The retail store will offer customers an opportunity to purchase food from farmers in the area, while providing locally sourced items to the community, Williams said.

The food co-op, which has slightly more than 1,000 members, hopes to raise awareness as well as funding as it plans to open the grocery store next year, Williams said.

When it opens, the store will be open to all customers, not just food co-op members, she said.

A co-op members meeting is tentatively scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 18, while Saturday afternoon open houses are planned at the Central Avenue location, allowing the public to ask questions and meet local farmers who will be selling their items. The open houses will be Jan. 13, 20 and 27, Williams said.

“We really have a big story to tell and we’re excited about bringing the co-op to fruition,” Williams said.

The co-op projects to spend $500,000 with local farmers during its first year in operation, providing more than 300 local products to the public, Williams said.

Contributors such as Terry Marbach and his wife Connie are among those hoping to make the grocery store a reality.

“People invest for many different reasons. For instance, they invest in their families, in their churches, health organizations, the arts and many other things,” Marbach said. “Connie and I contributed to the co-op because we believe it’s the right thing to do for the community.”

Williams also said co-op officials feel confident they will meet a $750,000 fundraising goal, with plans for a comprehensive telephone campaign to its owners to raise additional funds.

“We need the community to step up and make it happen and have a voice in what they want to see in their food supply,” Williams said. “There are plenty of people that want to help us make it happen.”

Tax-deductible donations, loans paid back with interest and the purchase of non-patronage certificates in $50 increments will help the co-op get to its $750,000 goal, she said.

“It may seem like a large goal, but I have seen this community step up to make amenities and needed resources happen,” Williams said. “This project impacts our food chain contributing to our health, provides education, sustains our farming industry and impacts our economy significantly.”

The co-op has been operating under the name Columbus Cooperative Grocery and Market Inc. since 2010.

When the store opens in the retail center, it will join other businesses that have recently opened there, such as Blondie’s Salon & Spa, Days of Old Antique Shoppe, garb2ART Cosmetics and Simply Pottery.

How to donate

To donate funds toward the Columbus Food Co-op’s capital campaign for its grocery store or to become a member, call campaign manager April Williams at 812-343-2841.

Information: 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