LIVERMORE FALLS — The coordinator of a new buying club in town told selectmen Tuesday she had concerns about comments made at the Feb. 6 selectmen’s meeting.
Coordinator Robin Beck of Livermore Falls said she had read about the reaction to the Spruce Mountain Buying Club and Cooperative by a selectman and a resident in an article in the Sun Journal on Feb. 7.
Resident Ron Chadwick had raised his concern over the town supporting the club by allowing it to hold a meeting at the Town Office because Food City already sells some of the same items.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Demaray said at the same meeting in reply to Chadwick’s comments that the board did not endorse the club. He said he would not support one business over another and used Food City as an example of where he shops. He said the board should not take sides and should not make endorsements.
Before addressing concerns, Beck gave the board a brief overview of what a buying club is.
“It is a group of people who use their buying power to purchase goods directly from a distributor thus saving money and time,” Beck read from a statement. “Our Buying Club is set up currently with two distributors, one which sells mainly organic, natural and ethnic foods, the other deals strictly with Maine farmers and value-added producers. Soon, the Club will also be working with farmers in the Livermore Falls area to purchase what they have produced.”
She addressed Chadwick’s concern, saying that the Buying Club deals in organic and ethnic foods and local produce, none of which are sold at the local grocery store. For a member of this community to purchase such items, they would need to drive to Farmington, and most items are only available in Portland, she said.
Another concern was that Chairman Demaray said that he would not support the Buying Club because he also shopped at Food City.
“My concern is that Mr. Demaray is speaking for the entire board and the board will not support any business coming to town simply because it competes with any other business in town. This would be a shot in the economic foot of Livermore Falls,” Beck said.
She said she hoped Demaray was misquoted.
Demaray said he meant that the board should not endorse one business over another.
The Spruce Mountain Buying Club and Cooperative is now looking into the possibility of placing a storefront in downtown Livermore Falls, Beck said.
“The goal is to have a small grocery selling organic, natural, ethnic and local foods, a cafe, educational opportunities for the community and farmers, and a community kitchen that will be a business incubator for food related start-up businesses,” she said. “The storefront Cooperative would provide a much more diverse shopping experience for Livermore Falls and area residents. It would also be a boost to downtown economics in bringing back residents who now shop out of town because they are not able to purchase the items they would like locally.”
The Cooperative will not be selling Coke, Kraft Foods and such, she said.
“For these items a shopper would need to go to the local grocery store, which would be Food City,” she said. “The Cooperative would also employ members of the community, and provide a downtown eating establishment serving salads, sandwiches, soups and coffees, most of which will be all locally produced.”
The club’s plan for the future will only increase economic development in the downtown and help surrounding farmers, she said.
“We do not intend to put any other company out of business,” Beck said. “However, if a business feels that it is facing some competition, maybe that business will improve its space, which would be yet another economic improvement to the Livermore Falls area.”