Groton - Soon after the Universal Food Store in Noank closed last fall, a small group of citizens began planning a revival of sorts.
"Everyone wanted their village market back," said Bailey Pryor, president of the new Noank Community Market. "A lot of people were very saddened by the loss of the Universal in September. That was really upsetting to the community."
Pryor, a member of the group that started the Fiddleheads Natural Food Co-op in New London, said the original group of 16 people who started the Noank effort has grown to 130, with members from Stonington, Mystic, Groton Long Point, Mumford Cove, Noank and Fishers Island.
He said meetings began in early October. Since then, the board conducted a feasibility study, wrote a business plan and organized a membership campaign for what will be a co-op.
The store is undergoing construction on a new kitchen design, and has hired a professional management staff, Pryor said. An informational meeting is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Noank Baptist Church. The market also has a website at www.noankmarket.com.
After researching possibilities, the group settled on a co-op because it offered the best options and the best chance for a successful business model, Pryor said. He cited Fiddleheads and the Willimantic co-op, which has been in operation since 1976, as examples of thriving co-ops.
"We are changing the structure of what was in the store to something more typical of today," he said. "The co-op is unique, and they have successful track records all over the country."
Pryor said many of the people who have signed on to the project also have pledged a combined total of about $125,000 in loans to fund the operation. The group is in the midst of its membership drive and would like to double its funding by March and be open by late spring. It is seeking loans from $1,000 to $25,000, which can only be provided by members.
Membership in the market is a one-time $175 fee, which provides the member with a single share of stock, voting rights and a discount on purchases.
Pryor said the Noank Community Market will offer natural, organic and gluten-free foods. It also will have a bakery and catering service, with food prepared by Gwenivere Lyon, a professional baker and chef from Munich, Germany, who has worked in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the United States.
Customer comforts will include a seating area, coffee bar and Wi-Fi connectivity. Customers do not have to be members.
Other members of the board are vice president Sandy Van Zandt, treasurer John Sutherland, secretary Timothy Bates and at-large members David Cruthers, Daphne Vayos and Eric Janney.