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Northside Food Co-op brings in design and architecture help to prepare ahead of opening

Cierra Washington from Northside Food Co-op (left), stands with Heather Lazickas, and Joel Kopischke from Seven Roots.

The Northside Food Co-op is developing more concrete plans about what the brick-and-mortar store will look like.

Northside Food Co-op has hired another co-op, Seven Roots, to handle some planning and marketing before the official brick-and-mortar store opens.

Market research has shown the North Side doesn’t have enough population density to support a traditional large-scale grocery store. But Heather Lazickaz from Seven Roots said that won’t stop the co-op particularly because it has the backing of New Hanover County Government.

"The beautiful thing about a co-op, is that it's often not as concerned about financial profitability as it is about meeting the need of a community,” she said.

The store will go on land at 10th and Fanning Streets provided by the city of Wilmington. It’ll be about 5,000 square feet of retail space- a little bigger than a regulation basketball court. That's enough space for all the departments that residents would expect in a regular grocery store — meat, dairy, a frozen section, produce, and dry goods.

“But really, what we see as our job is to sort of reflect to the community," Lazickus said. "We're hoping to kind of have some community vision sessions and be able to sort of take input and hear from folks, you know, 'What do you want to see? What do you want it to look like?' And that'll help us to sort of build that shared vision."

As for what they’ll sell, it will be a mix of conventional brands and locally grown or produced products. But the main thing is the food sold at the co-op will be recognizable and financially accessible to Northside residents.

The co-op has had some support from the county, and a county website says construction will begin in the spring of 2023, with a set opening in the Summer of 2024.

Project Manager Cierra Washington said New Hanover County is an important partner.

"They're in it to make sure that this is a successful store," she said. "This kind of all started because the county wanted to address community violence in a socially determinant way. And so they are committed to community violence prevention, they're committed to food access, and so I see them staying and being just as invested as we are in the community."

The county has allocated $2.45 million to the project, while the city has put in $125,000 and donated the land.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.