Background & History
Opened April 30, 2008, our co-op was built into a bowl-shaped site carved from the granite hillside between 1900-1934. Stone from this hill was used to build King St. and Routes 5 & 10. The quarry operations left the site with a flat plateau surrounded by granite cliffs rising on three sides. The cliff acts as a natural barrier between the cooperative store operations and surrounding residential areas. It also provides a beautiful setting for our community food store.
Our 15,000 sq. foot green-constructed building has a deli seating area; fresh produce, meat, and seafood departments; a wellness department; beer and wine; bulk foods; cheese, dairy, grocery and more!
History & Timeline
Our story begins…
1997 Community members meet at Forbes Library to discuss the development of a consumer-owned store in Northampton.
1998 A series of meetings at the Northampton Fresh Pasta Company lead to formation of a Steering Committee, a Site Search Committee and an Outreach Committee.
1999 The co-op incorporates as Northampton Community Cooperative Market, Inc. A Board of Directors is established alongside an e-news service, providing regular updates and news about the new co-op. The Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture and Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture [CISA] award the co-op with planning grants, and a feasibility study is conducted.
2000 The co-op receives a development grant from the Northampton-based Solidago Foundation, a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a generous donation from an anonymous family foundation. A business plan is formulated with the Cooperative Development Institute and CDS Consulting. Membership exceeds over 200. In a historic first Annual Meeting and first vote, member-owners choose the name “River Valley Market.”
Making a community's vision a reality
2001 CDS Consulting completes its first market study, and the Hill and Dale Mall is chosen as a strong candidate for a potential site. Board policies for governance are adopted and Rochelle Prunty is hired as General Manager. Plan B Design is hired for architectural and construction planning. Negotiations with the Hill and Dale property owner fall through and a new site search begins. Total membership hits a milestone, reaching 1,000 owners by the end of the year.
2002 Member-owners vote to continue searching for a site in Northampton and negotiations begin on the Potpourri Mall site soon after. The co-op receives a $25,000 grant from Mass Development. The Green Team is formed and creates a design charrette. A co-op member-owner survey is conducted with a 70% response rate. Membership reaches 1,300.
2003 The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative provides a $400,000+ Green Building Grant and the co-op purchases a liquor license. Detailed plans are developed for the Potpourri Mall site, but they are shelved when a deed restriction is found prohibiting grocery sales. The salaried General Manager position is temporarily halted, but Rochelle continues to work with the Board of Directors on a volunteer basis. Members vote to continue efforts to secure a store location as total ownership reaches 1,500.
2004 Cooperative Grocers’ Association Northeast [CGANE] provides $100,000, leveraging a $50,000 business planning advance from the National Cooperative Bank Development Corporation [NCBDC]. The National Cooperative Bank [NCB] extends $100,000 line of credit. The salaried General Manager position is reinstated on a part-time basis, then full-time soon after. The North King Street Old Quarry site is secured with a long term land lease agreement. Community forums are organized to discuss a plan for the Old Quarry site. Berkshire Design Group is hired for the site planning, while the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund and Coastal Enterprises begin work on tax credit financing. Co-op Power begins to manage the Green Building Grant, which is transferred to the new site.
2005 The City of Northampton approves the site rezoning, as well as a site development plan and special permit. The City of Northampton Community Development Block Grant is also approved. A business plan is soon finalized and preliminary construction budgets are developed. A member loan campaign raises $1 million dollars as ownership totals peak at 1,600.
2006 The co-op signs the lease and officially takes over the Old Quarry site. A general contractor is selected. Membership exceeds 1,800 and meets equity goals for financing requirements. A financing plan is developed with the Bank of Western Massachusetts, CEI Capital, TransCapital, the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund, National Cooperative Bank Capital Impact, the Cooperative Fund of New England, and the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund. Florence Savings Bank also agrees to provide support.
2007 The co-op closes on all financing and construction begins. The community celebrates the occasion with a groundbreaking ceremony. Member-owners from River Valley Co-op and Woodlands Timber Cooperative raise a timber frame porch in front of the store. Total ownership reaches over 2,000!
2008 Member-owner volunteers plant native perennials on the store site and Emmett Leader installs an entryway tile art project. Construction on the green building is completed. Five job fairs are held at the Franklin-Hampshire Career Center, with hundreds of interviews conducted and approximately 70 staff members hired. Total co-op ownership exceeds 2,500 just in time for our opening day!
Our co-op opens… and now the real work starts!
2014 Co-op celebrates 6th year of operation, serving more than 10,000 customers weekly. Co-op purchases over $3.7 million in local foods from farmers and other local vendors. Over $20 million overall annual sales in 6th year of operations. Over 130 employees work at the Co-op. Membership exceeds 6,700. Members support refinancing with over $2.4 million in member loans.
2014 In June, the Co-op was awarded the Howard K. Bowers Fund Cooperative Excellence Award at the National Consumer Co-op Management Association Conference for...
- Commitment to excellence
- Commitment to our members and our community
- Support to local farmers and producers
- Strengthening the regional economy
- Support to local, regional, and national
- Cooperative efforts
2014 The first phase of our store remodeling begins in October. Both the Deli and Front End receive updated fixtures and fresh paint. A new register was also added!
2015 Phase two of our store remodel begins. First, we added higher-capacity grocery shelving and new bulk bins. We also reworked and reset our wine and cheese sections, as well as the layout of our Wellness Department. We upgraded the HVAC system with improved temperature controls, and we installed new energy-efficient coolers and lighting, as well. The Co-op launches new branding, changing the name from River Valley Market to River Valley Co-op and unveiling Ursula, our beloved bear logo! Ownership numbers also jump to nearly 7,500 this year.
2016 The Northampton store remodeling project is completed this year, and soon after we begin exploring opportunities for expanding into a second store. The co-op made $132,355 in contributions to local non-profits, community organizations, schools, charities, and more. Total ownership increases to 8,464 this year, and we add to our local food partners for a total of over 400!
2017 Work resumes on securing a location for a second store as the co-op approaches its 10th year in business. The Northampton store goes on to create 167 jobs, an increase of 10 positions over 2016. We also fund a study exploring racial diversity at food co-ops in order to develop tools for systemic change. The co-op increases contributions to local organizations and non-profits for a total of $135,868. We also hit a milestone in our sustainability efforts, successfully diverting 79% of our store waste from local landfills, acquiring 100% of our electricity from renewable sources, and selling over $2 million in bulk products.
2018 River Valley Co-op celebrates its 10th birthday!
2020 The co-op implements several store-level changes to address an emerging global health crisis. We raise wages and provide extra paid time off to all our staff, as well as develop new programs and establish resources for those who need additional support. We also launch a curbside service to help our medically vulnerable shoppers and seniors get their groceries.