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Jun 6, 2010 06:20 AM

Alchemy Co-op in Melrose

Information is pretty sparse on the plans for this new Natural foods Co-op planning to open in Melrose at the former location of Melrose Drug. I received an email with the following info:

June 8 at 7pm: General information meeting, Melrose Public LIbrary
June 16 at 7pm: General information meeting, Melrose Public Library
JUne 18: Co-op shares available for purchase.

Another email I got from a friend said shares would cost $333 and each person could buy up to three. I have no idea what shares would entail, if there's a work requirement or what kinds of food they'll be stocking. I'm going to mail the contact:

Renee Tennison
Creative Director
Alchemy Community Markets

but I'm wondering if anyone has been to previous informational meetings or has any other info on this co-op? I'm surprised information is so hard to come by if they hope to start selling shares in just over a week.

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  1. I am guessing that nobody know the answer to this question, but is it sort of going to be a grocery store too? Shaws is probably the worst thing about living in Melrose....

    1 Reply
    1. re: drbangha

      I'm hoping so... I'd love to see something like Harvest Co-op, where you can be a member and get better prices, or not be a member and pay full price. I'll be at the meeting tomorrow and will post details when I hear them. I'm hoping for good bulk bins and herbs & Spices. Green Street Natural Foods has some decent bulk stuff but I get claustrophobic in that tiny store and it's too small to really be able to do real grocery shopping there. I usually stop in when I am looking for something specific that I can't find at more mainstream stores.

      Green Street Natural Foods
      164 Green St, Melrose, MA

    2. Can't stand Shaws. Went there one summer and there were flys buzzing around the tomatoes. It is so gross.

      Hmmm, food co-op in Melrose. Could be interesting if they source local, but if you MUST be a member than it'll be a drag.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kate used to be 50

        That space is fairly large and I just can't imagine them possibly making it if they simply sell shares. I really hope it goes well. There is not a ton of parking there.

        1. re: kate used to be 50

          I have no idea what their plans are yet, but member-only food coops are VERY rare at this point, so unless we hear otherwise I would assume that they will be open to the public. (Park Slope in BK and Mariposa in Philly being the two exceptions to that rule that I know of in the Northeast.)

        2. They talked a lot about the "Social Business" model they are pursuing, based on the theories of Muhammad Yunus.

          The market will be open to all, and will stock fresh, organic and locally grown produce (there's a strong emphasis on the "organic" part- for example they will source apples from Fiji, rather than IPM fruit raised locally), dairy, meat (no seafood until they can find a provider who can guarantee organic), vegan/vegetarian products, raw, bulk, in-house prepared foods (more about this below), beverages (including juice they'll make from past-prime produce), beauty products, natural health supplements, educational materials, clothes & shoes, cleaning products and household items. All the non food items are eco-friendly and many are local. They will give about 50% of their space to food and the rest to the other items.

          They will have a full commercial kitchen in the basement, where they will prepare foods for sale in the store, but also offer cooking classes and a commercial kitchen available in some way to community members who need a space on an "as-needed" basis. Long-term plans aim for a greenhouse on the roof.

          Shareholders will get annual dividend reimbursements, can be on the BOD, vote in BOD elections and get 10% off on special case orders.

          The management team is comprised of Chef Craig Hamilton, who is currently working at Latitude 43 in Gloucester, Renee Tennison, who has co-op management experience, and Edward Constantino Jr, who has worked as a manager at Trader Joe's. They seem to have a pretty firm idea of what they want the business to be, and have done a lot of market research to develop their plans.

          It seems they already have a lease for the building at 462 Main Street, because the landlord is listed on the list of people they have supporting the business launch. I had to leave before the meeting was over so I didn't hear when they plan to open, but they will be selling shares at a meeting on June 18, location TBA. I'll report back if I get more info on their timeline.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chris VR

            Whoops some misunderstanding on my part. I received this via email from renee:

            "We will be first and foremost using local farmers fresh foods. I stated that Massachusetts does have a limited growing season not everything will be available locally all year. when we can get apples here we can get them on the west coast when they are unavailable here we can get them from New Zealand and Fiji. Local is always our first choice. "

            1. re: Chris VR

              So that's the vacant Melrose Drug (sigh) space. Good. Interesting.

              That Shaw's needs to be replaced - it's the chain's abandoned child. (I miss Cerretani's.) I do go there, but I rarely buy meat or produce there. But it is a location favored by the many elderly who live nearby, so they coast on that demographic.

              I do most of my local shopping at MB (Reading and Chelsea, both great stores) nowadays, filling in from other places.

            2. Many thanks for all this information, Chris. It certainly is interesting and I hope it will be a good place to shop... any place is better than Shaw's. I'd love to see it similar to Cambridge's Harvest Co-op. But I have to wonder why apples have to be imported from down under when we have several local apple orchards within a few miles of Melrose. And yes I do know about the different growing seasons of the northern and southern hemispheres. Two words: cold storage. I'm staying tuned for more inclusive information. Thanks again for your report.

              1. She also gave this info about their time frame:

                "We have a modest starting member goal of 1,000 members before we start construction and our goal of 3,000 members to reach self sustainability. other co-ops are averaging 5,000 members, so we do believe this is an attainable goal. As soon as 12 people commit to serving on the interim Board of Directors to help get the co-op organized and we have our first meeting, we will be able to start selling shares. As soon as we make the 1,000 member goal, construction can begin. We are hoping to have the Store Front and Kitchen done by late summer/early fall. "