The East Lansing Food Co-op shuttered its doors in 2017. Since then, locals have been wondering when it would ever return. Well, the wait is almost over.
This fall, ELFCO is reopening in the Allen Place Complex under a new name: Eastside Lansing Food Co-op. A page on the crowdfunding site, Patronicity, was set up to raise funds for this new project. The goal is to raise $50,000.
If the goal is met, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will match it. The money is for renovations, buying equipment, building a coffee bar and adding new signage and lighting fixtures.
“Allen Place has been under construction since last year,” said Joan Nelson, executive director of the Allen Neighborhood Center. “When completed, it will have 21 mixed-income apartments, plus several food/health focused entities. Including an Ingham Community Health Center clinic, an accelerator kitchen for graduates of our incubator program and — of course — ELFCO!”
When ELFCO first opened about 40 years ago, it was hard to find organic food on store shelves. Now, it’s everywhere, from Kroger to Whole Foods. The challenge for today’s shoppers is finding high-quality, locally-produced food.
Nelson said that the new ELFCO will not just be a food co-op. It will be something closer to Argus, a consignment grocery store in Ann Arbor.
“Local farmers provide the produce to the store. People at the store put it on display, promote it, sell it. Then, they pay the farmer for the food,” she explained. “If it doesn’t sell, they give it back to the farmer. It’s a great model.”
The grocer keeps a portion of the proceeds in order to keep the store running. The rest goes straight to local farmers. More than 30 farmers already work with the Allen Farmers Market. Nelson plans to connect these farmers to ELFCO once it opens.
“Urban farming is so prevalent on the east side,” said Nelson. “There’s a food innovation district on East Kalamazoo, with the greenhouse and farm in Hunter Park. Plus, all of the urban farms in the Urbandale neighborhood. There’s a whole lot of food-focused activity going on in this area, right on this block.”
The ELFCO board felt that the east side was the perfect landing spot for its proposed consignment grocery store. It is estimated that — within three years — ELFCO will partner with over 100 farms and generate up to a million dollars in sales per year.
It will be the first food co-op to serve the Greater Lansing Area since the original ELFCO shut down four years ago.
“People still remember the East Lansing Food Co-op. Many people on the Eastside have fond memories of the Wolf Moon Food Co-op, too, which was on Michigan Avenue,” said Nelson. “People are still mourning that loss. We’re excited to bring a food co-op back to this area.”