BENNINGTON — A nonprofit group has secured a $200,000 loan from the town and wants to open a grocery store at 239 Main St., site of the former LaFlamme’s Furniture business.
According to a statement from the group, “The Bennington Community Market will be a small nonprofit grocery store located in the heart of downtown Bennington that promotes sustainable local agriculture, downtown revitalization and healthy food for everyone.”
Aila West, a group member who also serves as assistant director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, said the organization is “working with a local architecture firm and contractor to build out a commercial kitchen.”
The store, she said, will include “a prepared-food counter, coffee bar, small indoor seating area and additional outdoor seating. We hope to open our doors to the community in late spring 2022.”
West said the prepared-food section will include a deli counter, with fresh soups, salads and other ready-to-eat items sold by the pound.
There will also be baked goods prepared daily, and the market is expected to be open seven days a week.
Total start-up costs for the market will be around $540,000, according to the group’s application to the Bennington Revolving Loan Fund for a $200,000 loan, which has been approved by the Select Board.
The space available in the building allows more than 4,500 square feet for a market, according to the loan application and business plan.
The location, which at one point served as an auto dealership, also has on-site parking, a delivery entrance and warehouse and office space.
West said the group is “still working out the membership model, so details on that are forthcoming. We will gladly accept donations to the market, and will have a website up soon for online donations.”
The group plans to work with the Bennington Farmers’ Market and the Regenerative Food Network to provide fresh produce and other foods.
Among other members of the nonprofit group’s board are Susan Sgorbati, director of CAPA at the college; Tatiana Abatemarco, also of Bennington College; Becky Arbella, of Shires Housing; Crystal Gardner, of Hilltop Farm; Bill Laberge, of Grassroots Solar and the Regenerative Food Network; Rick Morgenthal, of Lever Inc., and Michael Philipp, of the Regenerative Food Network.
Among listed advisors to the group are state Rep. David Durfee, of Shaftsbury, the former manager of Wild Oats Market in Williamstown, Mass.; Maria Scully, former owner/operator and bookkeeper of Powers Market and Pangaea Restaurant in North Bennington; Nancy Shuttleworth, of the Vermont Small Business Development Center; Bennington Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti, and Callie Fishburn, of the Bennington County Regional Commission.
Barsotti said the proposal fills one of the highest-ranked needs for the downtown identified in the recent Citizen Survey on town issues.
She also noted that new housing is in place around the Four Corners within the Putnam Block development or being planned, and a commercial building with housing on the upper stories is proposed for a now-vacant lot on Depot Street.