Marquette Food Co-op opens new doors Thursday

MARQUETTE – More than 40 people congregated outside the Marquette Food Co-op’s former location on Baraga Avenue in Marquette Thursday morning. Temperatures were a little chilly, but spirits were high – everybody had gathered to say farewell to the old store before making a celebratory trek to the grand opening of the co-op’s new location on West Washington Street.

“It’s a momentous occasion for us today,” said Matt Gougeon, the store’s general manager. He talked about some of the challenges he and others faced in getting the new store ready to open its doors to co-opers and customers alike, including minor obstacles with building codes and other red tape.

“Any official in our community who could have given us some problems hasn’t – because they’re a member!” he said to a mix of laughter, cheers and dings from bicycle bells.

By the time the group had moved up Baraga Avenue, down Fourth Street to Washington and over to the new store on the 500 block of West Washington, it had swelled to more than 80 people.

Outside the store, Glenn Sarka, the co-op’s board president, addressed the crowd, talking about how much the co-op had changed since it was started by 10 families back in 1971. He said that while people might buy a brick to show their support or loyalty to other types of businesses, at the co-op each brick belongs to all members.

“Welcome to your co-op … Enjoy, shop – buy a lot, please – we have to pay this building off,” he joked.

Rather than a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gougeon said, to celebrate the co-op’s opening they would break and share bread baked at the new location and pass around organic apples – kind of a “quasi-religious” ceremony, he said, but which made sense for the co-opers.

“Food is our religion,” he said.