The Clifton Market
co-op recently purchased the old IGA building at 319 Ludlow Ave. in Clifton, completing one phase of a long process to bring a grocery store back to the business district.
The market currently has more than 1,000 members and is aiming for 1,500 by the summer and 2,000 by the time the new market opens near the end of 2015. The co-op has raised about $1.3 million so far, with plans to continue fundraising in the coming months.
“This store isn’t just for Clifton, it’s for the whole Cincinnati area,” says Adam Hyland, president of the Clifton Market board. “We want it to be uniquely Cincinnati as well as a celebration of what a grocery can be.”
The old co-op model, in which shareowners work in the store, isn’t as popular any more. Clifton Market’s model is a democratic form of ownership, which means that no matter how many shares you own no one can buy out majority ownership and each shareowner gets one vote to elect the board.
“When we first approached the community about a grocery store, they wanted a sustainable, long-term system, and that’s exactly what this model is,” Hyland says.
Shareowners vote for board members, and a general manager will then report to the board on how the day-to-day business is going. One of the things that will set the market apart from other grocery stores will be its staff, which Hyland says will be chosen carefully in order to help provide the ultimate grocery store experience for customers.
The 23,000-square-foot space will be a full-service grocery, with everything from natural, healthy options to Pampers and dog food. The market will have what the community needs and will also boast the community’s culture, Hyland says.
Highlights will include special attractions, signature products and featured products, all with a housemade objective. Keith Wicks, a grocery market analyst who has been helping develop Clifton Market, says that the market will partner with a few specialty retail partners — specifically bakery partners — to bring back the old stone-ground, German master pastry ways.
“There are lots of really interesting foodie-related things happening in the business district in general, and we hope that the market helps make it a foodie’s destination, both locally and nationally,” Wicks says.
Since Clifton’s IGA closed, the Ludlow Avenue business district has lost about 40 percent of its business, Wicks says. He hopes that Clifton Market will bring back that traffic and help promote the street’s other retailers and services.
“We’re all in this together,” Wicks says. “As the anchor goes, so goes the district.”
The market’s business model projects that it will see about 10,000 transactions per week, with about 15,000 people coming through the door. That kind of foot traffic will benefit not only Clifton Market but the surrounding businesses as well.
Apart from turning a profit, Clifton Market has another objective: to work cooperatively with the Ludlow Business District. Even though retailers like Ludlow Wines
will offer some of the same items as Clifton Market, it won't be a competition for customers. Ludlow Wines will have something that Clifton Market doesn't, and vice versa. Plus, if you need to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, you'll also be able to pick up the things you need to make dinner from the market.
“Part of the idea of the co-op business model is that you’re community-minded,” Hyland says. “Most businesses are about how much profit can you get out of one location, but we’re focusing on how much profit can we help bring to the business district. As a business ecosystem, we all rely on each other.”
The goal is to have the market open in about six months, but that timeline could change depending on how quickly additional fundraising money comes in. Once the funds are raised, interior and exterior remodeling will happen quickly.
If you’re interested in being a shareowner in the Clifton Market, you can purchase shares online
for $200. There is also an option to make an owner loan
to the market, which will be paid back 100 percent in full.
Clifton Market is hosting a foodie event on June 14, when the market’s wholesaler, produce supplier and Boar’s Head will be providing tastes of a wide range of products. They’re still looking for vendors to participate; those interested can contact Charles Marxen, field developer, at 614-432-6663.