The River City Food Co-op was organized in the fall of 2005 by a group of Evansville citizens who wanted a place to buy high-quality organic, natural and bulk foods.
Several of the founding Co-op organizers had a working relationship with Patchwork Central, a downtown neighborhood outreach organization that owned the building at 116 Washington Avenue known as the White House. Co-op founders hoped the White House would become the home of the new Co-op.
After a number of public forums organized by word-of-mouth and flyers, 25 individuals stepped forward to commit to membership payments and store-credit loans, thus supplying the capital needed to prepare a space and order the initial inventory.
A Few Small Repairs
Patchwork agreed to lease a back room of the White House to the Co-op rent-free in exchange for interior repairs, painting, and other structural improvements.
The founding members made the necessary interior repairs, built a porch, and constructed a concrete walkway.
Artwork was created for the Co-op logo, which was used as the sign hanging above the original exterior door.
Founders also designed and built the original bulk bins for the new Co-op, and served as volunteers to staff the store for its first several months.
Open for Business
On November 5, 2005, the co-op opened its doors for the first time to the public. The store was initially open four days a week, Thursday – Sunday. Anyone could shop in the Co-op, but members received a discount in exchange for their membership payment and 4 hours of work per month in the store.
Within a few months, store hours expanded to six days a week and one employee was hired. Membership had doubled and the space was getting tight.
In April of 2006 a second room was opened and a commercial refrigerator was purchased. The membership structure was also changed to a one-time, lifetime membership with the option of volunteering for an additional discount.
By the Co-op’s first anniversary, the store had 2 clerks, a part-time manager and a part-time chef. Patchwork Central agreed to renovate the white house and lease the whole first floor to the Co-op, and asked the Co-op to include a room for the artWorks Gallery, a program of Patchwork.
As the Co-op expanded into its larger space, we remodeled the bulk room, expanded our grocery and produce sections, added refrigeration and freezer space, and developed relationships with several local meat producers. We began serving regular lunches prepared in our store kitchen, and expanded our participation in community activities. With the additional space we were able to offer informational programs and workshops in the store, and our growing membership allowed us to increase our participation in local farmers markets, festivals and downtown events.
In the fall of 2012 we gained a new general manager and began working to implement the Vision Plan volunteers and board members developed over the previous summer.
With your support, the Co-op will continue to serve an ever-broadening community from our downtown grocery, offering healthy food, an ethical shopping alternative, and a model of cooperation.