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Williamsville co-op market reaches 280 members in bid to open

The effort to start a new cooperative market in the Village of Williamsville is now one-third of the way toward the membership goal that its founders need to reach before they can open its doors.

More than 280 people have signed up as members of the proposed Village Co-op Market of Williamsville, after paying the one-time fee of $150 per family to gain one share of ownership.

That's at least 40 percent of what officials are targeting – about 700 to 1,000 members – before the organization can commit to a developer. Members must be New York State residents but do not have to live in the village.

The process is expected to take two to five years, although organizers hope to reach 600 members by the end of this year, said Board President Jim Walfrand. At that point, he added, leaders can begin developing "pro forma" financial projections and put the project out to bid.

"The quicker we get the members, the sooner we can get open," he said.

Using grants from Erie County and the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, the new co-op already hired consulting firm G2G to conduct a feasibility study last June, which concluded that there's enough of a market in the village and more broadly in Amherst to support the new business, Walfrand said. G2G, which specializes in co-ops, previously did similar studies for the Lexington and East Aurora co-op organizations.

So it's "just a matter now of getting the word out to the community and educating the community about what we’re all about," Walfrand said.

To that end, the group will host YMCA Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jeremy Flint at its next board meeting on Feb. 6. Flint will discuss the YMCA's offerings and services, and how the missions of the two organizations are consistent in promoting healthy lifestyles.

"Because they’re located in Amherst, it would be nice to work with them on different things," Walfrand said. "It's a great facility that they have in Amherst, so it would be nice to get the word out about them."

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Williamsville Village Hall at 5565 Main St. Village Co-op has previously had a local farmer talk to its members, and Walfrand said he hopes to have other guest speakers in the future.

For more information or to sign up for membership, go to villagecoopmarket.com.

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