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      Struggling South Side food co-op asks members to make personal loans to help it reopen

      After 40 successful years in business, General Manager of The Syracuse Real Food Co-op, Garland McQueen was surprised when the Eat-to-Live Co-op on the South Side closed after just two months.

      "When I heard about the closure we were disappointed. I don't know the reasons why but we were looking forward to having another Co-op in the area to serve the community," says McQueen.

      When we first exposed problems at the South Side food co-op two weeks ago, the board sent a letter out to its 150 members detailing what went wrong and asking for help. A portion of the letter says "We will be asking those of you who can afford it to make a personal loan for initial working capital in addition to your membership fee in order to re-open the store as soon as possible."

      When CNYCentral covered the story a few weeks ago, the South Side Co-op had a sign with temporary store hours posted, but it has since been removed.

      Rob Simpson is the chair of the Central New York Regional Economic Council that helped the Co-op obtain nearly $400,000 in state grants. He insists those grants are performance-based and taxpayer money has not been jeopardized to fund this project so far.

      "In this case it's my understanding from talking to the Empire State Development Corporation that there hasn't been a single penny of grant money that has gone into the project at this point," says Simpson.

      Simpson does hope to sit down with the project leaders and figure out how to help them re-ope n.

      B ack at the Syracuse Real Food Co-op located at 618 Kensington Road, McQueen says asking for members for financial help isn't unusual, but typically doesn't happen this early in the game.

      "In most cases, when a Co-op asks for member loans and it is a common practice it's usually because of an expansion plan or relocate. I was surprised to hear that," says McQueen.