Willimantic Co-op Celebrates 37 Years

The Willimantic Food Co-op celebrated its birthday with 37 cakes, music, food samples, and discounts for members and non-members alike.

It was a celebration worthy of a grocery store that offers nothing but the best for the community by providing healthy foods, organic and conventional, and locally grown when possible. The Co-op is active in promoting local farms, city gardens and community affairs.

The Feb. 11 party celebrated the growth of the co-op from a small store on Main Street, to the expansion on Meadow Street in 1991, to the present store on Valley in 2005. Last year, the co-op purchased the former Willimantic Lumber and Coal Co. at 87 Church St. to have more space.

"People like the store this size," Manager Alice Rubin said. "But we are running out of space for office, storage, and meetings. This purchase allows us to stay here and use Church Street for those purposes. We may use it to prepare foods to sell at the store. The property has been neglected and is a plight on our town. We are excited about being part of revitalizing this area."

The store is one of two co-ops in Connecticut and has a loyal clientele, who travel from long distances to do their shopping. Robin Starkel has been a member for decades and travels from Manchester to shop.

"I appreciate all the research they do; I don't have to worry or even think about where the items come from. I can be sure products are locally raised or produced and are free from harmful chemicals, non-GMO, not tested on animals, and are fair-traded. All the work the staff does makes everything so much easier," she said explaining her loyalty.

Sarah Keleher has also been a member for decades and does outreach for the co-op.

"I belong because of the integrity of the food and the sense of community. I believe we are what we eat," she said.

Most in the region know that the store is the go to place for hard to find items, like homeopathic remedies, every spice imaginable, and bulk items available in bins so that only what is needed is purchased.

There were complementary food and beverages offered by businesses and organizations for people to enjoy. Sallie D'Attilio, program coordinator for the Creative Living Community in Manchester, was providing yummy creations with a healthy twist.

"The co-op is just an amazing place. They are accepting, the food is fresh and local, and they help the community. They are a good bunch of people who have been very kind to our organization," she said.

by Kitty LeShay – Hartford Courant – February 22, 2017

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