The Durham Co-Op Market is OPEN

Although construction was delayed due to all the winter weather, opening day has finally arrived for the Durham Co-Op Market. IMG_20150318_083717

Here are a couple of panoramas (click to embiggen).





I didn’t need much, but I definitely needed this: IMG_20150318_084827 The interior of the store is nice, with a lot of light coming in from those windows. It’s not a big store – I feel like it’s a bit smaller than the 9th St Whole Foods original size – but they’ve got most of what you’d expect (including a prepared food counter, coffee shop, and a deli). Prices seem to be about in line with Whole Foods.

It’s also a great place to stalk local radio personality Frank Stasio, who was making the rounds when I stopped by.

I’ve posted about the DCM a few times, and it’s really exciting to see the project come to fruition. The building is located at 1111 West Chapel Hill St. (at the intersection of Kent and WCH, near the cemetery).

10 thoughts on “The Durham Co-Op Market is OPEN”

  1. Thanks for the pictures–wish there were a few more curves in the architecture and that it didn’t look like KFC. Anyway, its probably better in real life. And BTW, its Frank Stasio (an easy mis-hear)

  2. I am pleased the co-op exists, and I am a lifetime member. However, many us who live in the neighborhoods that the Durham (Central) Market was originally supposed to serve (Old North Durham, Central Park, Cleveland Holloway, Duke Park) can’t help but be a little peeved at the fact that the organizers decided to locate instead in an area with 3 pre-existing groceries. So many people in my neighborhood contributed funds because there are simply no grocery stores / fresh food available locally. I realize serving the Duke Student body seems like a more obvious revenue stream, but the other side of downtown is essentially a food desert, and many of us feel like the D(C)M let us down. And in some cases took contributions and ran.

    1. Agreed, Ken, there was even the Durham Central Market sign on the lot at Mangum and Broadway for at least a year but they couldn’t get the deal closed. Only when they announced a move that served a lot of other people in a different part of the city did they finally get the membership numbers boosted. I wonder if they had picked this location from the beginning if they would have gotten so many members …

      One question, though: I’m not sure how you’re counting 3 pre-existing groceries in the area. I can really only argue that the Lakewood Food Lion is within walking distance of the Co-Op.

      1. Hi Chris. I suspect they got sufficient membership numbers once they made the announcement of the move because they were able to add those new memberships onto the old ones from people in my neighborhood and surrounding areas. They doubled-up by making promises to two different parts of town (but only serving the one). Now many of my neighbors contributed, but it will still be far “easier” to travel down I-85 to Kroger.
        Also, while the Co-Ops sign was up for several years, many people in the neighborhoods were confused as to what the Co-op as actually doing to make things happen and how sincere the effort was. There was very little (next to nothing) in the way of membership drives, online presence, Kickstarter (or the sort). I moved to OND in 2011, and I was excited by the prospect of DCM. But after a year of seeing no activity on their website or updates, I was hesitant to join. Simply put…they could have done more.
        The 3 pre-existing groceries in the area I was referring to were Food Lion, Whole Foods, and Harris Teeter. For example, someone in the Burch Avenue neighborhood is reasonably close to the Co-op, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter. Lakewood has the Co-op and Food Lion. Those of us in OND, Duke Park, Central Park, and Cleveland Holloway have to get onto, or at least cross, I-85 in order to get to any fresh food. Many of us have co-op memberships for the DCM, but Whole Foods is actually an easier trip (though not much, and not exactly affordable). Even those living in the center of downtown (and there are more everyday) could not walk or bike to the CO-Op as it would mean crossing Hwy 147 and the on ramps. The original location would have been better for the new condo dwellers too—if deeper pockets were what the organizers were after.

        Darn it. It was not my intention with my original post to sound bitter. I do hope the DCM is a success. I just wish someone would see that a grocery is sorely needed on the other side of downtown.

    2. Full disclosure: I won when they selected WCH because I live closer to their current location. So take what I write with an appropriate amount of salt.

      My understanding is that the gentrification of OND / Central Park accelerated rapidly between the inception of the idea and the actual securing of enough funds and partners to start moving on it. Who could have predicted how hot that area would become when they first announced their intentions? By the time DCM had it together enough to do something, anybody owning land in that area knew which direction the wind was blowing and priced accordingly.

      The question of whether DCM should have looked towards Cleveland-Holloway is interesting, but there’s dramatically more risk there. It’s important to note that the market does actually have to sell fancy pants expensive things and people have to feel safe shopping there to keep the thing alive, so finding a rundown warehouse or an abandoned strip mall around Alston would have been a tough sell from a business perspective. I think their ultimate location threads that gentrification needle between Central Park and Cleveland-Holloway.

      As for “three grocery stores” near WCH: when DCM/Self-Help announced this location, HT didn’t exist, and it’s not exactly convenient anyhow. Food Lion was (and remains) the closest grocery store to the current location at about 1 mile away. One mile coincidentally happens to be about the same distance between Central Park and the DCM, and also coincidentally it’s also about the distance between the intersection of Cleveland-Holloway and the East Durham Compare Foods. I’m sure OND / Central Park would love a grocery store, but at this point you’re going to need to wait for somebody with deeper pockets to do it (and for some of those apartments to actually start filling up to provide the demand for it).

      I can understand frustration if you bought an ownership stake when they couldn’t execute on the original plan (did they not offer a way to refund for early owners? Seems like they should have done that) but I think your criticism is overly harsh.

      1. Hi Jeremy. I hope not to sound overly harsh. A bit irked maybe, and just relaying conversations I’ve had locally. But as I look over last post, I can see how it could seem harsh. At the risk of continuing to sound like a curmudgeon, I feel a compulsion to respond/explain further. If my words don’t relate the fact, I am casually shrugging as I type them as they are meant as gentle criticism towards DCM, nothing more. And mostly it comes out jealousy of what we have missed out on our side of town.

        I don’t see serving Cleveland-Holloway as any more of a risk, as that neighborhood begins only a block or two away from Mangum St./ OND/ Central Park area that was initially proposed for the Durham Market co-op. The risk would have been split with OND/Duke Park/ Central Park, which as you stated is rapidly gentrifying. (As is Cleveland-Holloway, incidentally).
        It is frustrating to hear (and I’ve heard it before), that the area is now too costly, but simultaneously the residents are not seen as wealthy enough to support the store. It seems to me that this is exactly the situation for something like a Co-op. i.e. those, like myself, who can afford a membership up front can help bring a store to an underserved area that needs it. But that didn’t happen.

        I’ve watched the area change, and find it difficult to believe that the Co-op couldn’t find a location years ago when they started taking donations. There are still vacant lots and buildings here. But more to the point, when they started taking investment, there was a LOT available. Motorco, Geer Street Garden, Coco Cinamon, Bull City Cross Fit, Durham Distillery, Surf Club, Blue Note, The Pit, Saltbox Seafood…none of these existed at the time. (I’m not even sure Fullsteam was there yet). Not to mention all the small warehouses that are now being renovated on Foster (and to some extent Rigsbee and Washington). Admittedly, I don’t know the internal concerns of DCM at that time (but communication with the community wasn’t their strong point — which lead people to hold back contributing). Nevertheless, at the time I recall watching the two people who ran Bike Coffee (literally a bike), open Coco Cinnamon with very limited means and Kickstarter. Simultaneously, I saw nothing from DCM. I had watch their website for a year and it never changed. When the Coco Cinamon thing happened, I emailed to ask what they (DCM) were doing to increase donations or find a spot for a store—nothing. I was just added to the inactive listserve.

        Back to pre-existing grocers: Walking through a neighborhood to get to Food Lion or Whole Foods or Harris Teeter is not the same as going across I-85 to get to Compare Foods. I’ve been in the area long enough to remember the original Co-op market on W. Chapel Hill St. And I had always heard that it struggled from competition with Wellspring/Whole Foods. The area has grown, certainly, but the point is that that part of town has multiple options. And this side hasn’t a single one. Admittedly, on a map Compare Foods does not look that far from our neighborhoods, but you can’t walk, or even bike, there. Once N. Roxboro gets to the I-85 intersection, things get very scary traffic-wise; you then have to jumps traffic islands and find a way across Avondale. at which point, you can start making your way to Compare. You need a car to do it, and if you have one, Kroger, up I-85 can actually be easier to get to. Compare has nice produce at good prices, but packaged staples are pricier. And with no sidewalks for most of the journey, and no safe biking, it’s not a neighborhood grocer for the areas on our side of I-85.

        Finally regarding refunds: I’m not aware that they were offered, though they may indeed be available. I don’t think I would want mine back as I still think it is still a good thing overall. I recently asked my neighbor who contributed, and he had heard nothing of refunds. Again though, if it was membership numbers that kept it away from our area, they could have originally proposed the site for the current location (collected investment there), changed their minds to Mangum and completed the the membership drive the same way…in reverse. That’s a cynical statement, I know, but it is also very true. And it is also true that getting fresh food on the opposite side of downtown from DCM is costly and impractical for too many residents.

    3. You’re kind of off base here with your comparison to Cocoa Cinnamon. Cocoa Cinnamon did take a lot of money to build– around $200k, with more than half coming from the landlord in the form of an upfit allowance.

      Why didn’t the co-op do a kickstarter? Let’s say they had a successful kickstarter and raised $30,000– just like Cocoa Cinnamon. What can the grocery store buy with $30k? Gondola shelving. That’s it. So, you’d have a building with no plumbing, electrical, or heat. Just gondola shelving. No deli, no refrigerated cases, no freezer section, no checkout lanes, no furniture for the dine-in customers, no hot bar, no espresso machine. Just $30,000 worth of gondola shelving.

      You can’t kickstart a grocery store. It is a $2,000,000+ upfit, no counting the building or the land. That’s why you didn’t see the Co-Op pitching a kickstarter or membership drive. It is a futile waste of time and resources. SHCU has very deep pockets and a strong desire to see southwest central durham thrive. It is only because of SHCU that the co-op built.

      1. Excuse me, Rob, where exactly did I say that Cocoa Cinnamon did not require a lot of money to build? I would suggest your whole focus here on Kickstarter and gondola shelving is a straw man, except that, typically, when one employs such a rhetorical device it is not in service of agreeing with the original statement. My whole point was that the Bike Coffee/Cocoa Cinnamon had limited means, and yet were able to raise a substantial amount (200K as you point out yourself). The DCM, on the other hand, was backed by a board of experienced people and had several neighborhoods already buying in (both figuratively and literally). Yes, both Cocoa Cinnamon and Fullsteam, got some money from Kickstarter that I’m sure played some kind of role… but they certainly needed, and obtained, additional financing. Likewise, I suppose, was the case with every other small business person who started something in that area during this time frame. (Whether or not it was from your Kickstarter, or perhaps memberships, Self Help Credit Union, community financing, Indiegogo, the Bank, potluck dinners, Warren Buffett, coke bottle recycling, whatever.) Like I said in an earlier post, I don’t know what the internal financial concerns of DCM were at the time they originally expressed intentions to build in OND. I do know that they did not communicate their needs, and that maybe if they did so, some of these other folks who found a way could have provided some advice. Or maybe not. In any case, people were excited at the prospect of having access to fresh food, and made contributions, only to have DCM go relatively silent, followed only by their move to the other side of town. I think if DCM had reached out to our community, they would have found that we too, have a “strong desire to thrive.”

        In any case, like you said, DCM found financing easier on the other side of downtown. That’s obvious given the fact that is, indeed, where the building now resides. The gist of my initial post was that the DCM went where the money was easiest, and not where a grocer/Co-op was most needed. The point of your post, on the other hand, seems to be only to gloat they we did not provide enough financial incentives, and thus our neighborhoods will get no Co-op, no grocery, whatsoever. I already said I was jealous. I admitted the finances were better in their new location. Which is to say we agree on that, too. So I really don’t know what you wanted to say with your post other than perhaps to suggest that those of us disappointed by the loss of DCM should only provide unconditional praise for the situation, or otherwise remain quiet.

  3. Understood.

    From my perspective as somebody who’s just watched the thing from the outside since the inception, failing to get into Central Park or OND was due to timing more than anything. I watched as the project struggled early on to find funding, I think in no small part due to the lingering recession, which itself was masking how much demand there soon would be for property in Durham. By the time things were looking up for DCM, things were looking up for everybody, and the speculators had won the day.

    Once they ultimately secured the help of Self Help and start ramping up, it was too late.

    As for Compare – I’m specifically talking about the one near the Post Office at the intersection of Miami and Holloway (it’s relatively new – I forget what used to be there, a Rose’s maybe?). That’s not super convenient to OND, but it’s not that bad for C-H by bus or bike. I certainly know how badly I-85 screws up everything in NE Durham.

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