Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 16, 2017
New manager helping steer co-op relocation effort
by Anne Berleant
After assuming general manager duties at the Blue Hill Co-op in November, Kevin Gadsby soon took on leading the store’s planned move to a South Street location. The new store will be built on 5.5 acres purchased in 2014 for $144,000, and hopefully open in fall 2018, Gadsby said.
A manager of Maine food co-ops “up and down the coast” since 2010, Gadsby said that during that time the availability of local foods and customers’ desire for them “was exploding.”
On the Blue Hill Peninsula, that same surge had already been under way because of the Peninsula’s deep roots in the local food community, he noted.
“Local food has been huge around here,” Gadsby said, helping account for the increasing sales at the co-op, which reached nearly $3 million in 2016, a 6 percent increase from the year before.
The proposed new store, with 11,500 square feet of retail, office, café and community space, and the parking to match, will accommodate the continuing steady growth at the food co-op.
“I’m actually quite amazed at how this place has been able to put off [expansion],” Gadsby said.
Retail space will be over three times larger than at the present location, and while buyers for the co-op look to the most local of suppliers first, the expanded space likely means “we’ll have to spread out tent pegs a bit,” Gadsby said. Co-op board members are also involved with an ad hoc committee proposing a more pedestrian-friendly South Street.
Before ground can be broken at the new site, the initial fundraising phase needs to be completed. Nearly $200,000 has been raised towards an August goal of $500,000 from local investors under the Maine SEC Fund-ME rules. Once that number is reached, the co-op can begin to seek out-of-state investors, per legal regulations of Fund-ME.
“We’ve had a lot of interest [from] folks away,” Gadsby noted.
The total estimated cost of the new store is approximately $5 million, including land development, design and construction, inventory, equipment and staffing, Gadsby said.
Gadsby’s connection with natural food goes back two decades. He met his wife, Kathleen, working at a natural foods restaurant in Boston and at one time the two operated their own natural foods store. More recently Gadsby served as general manager for the Good Tern Co-op in Rockland, growing sales 35 percent, then was project manager for the opening of the Portland Food Co-op where he then became general manager. Gadsby returned to Rockland in 2015 as managing director of Main Street Markets, before managing Bareburger Organic restaurant in Philadelphia.
“What we put in our bodies matters,” he said.
Currently living in South Blue Hill, Gadsby said his family, which includes two children at Blue Hill Consolidated School and a George Stevens Academy sophomore, is “hoping to stay put for a while.”