Board hires new managers, plans grand reopening
The Eat To Live Food Cooperative is set to open its doors again, after being closed for two years due to financial overruns.
Joseph Bryant, the president of the cooperative, said that during the two-year closed period the board made changes that would ensure that the store remains open.
Last year at this time, the board received additional funding, including a $10,000 anonymous donation and a commitment of $5,000 each from The Allyn Foundation, Gifford Foundation and Central New York Community Foundation. The board said the money would be used to reopen and hire a manager.
The board announced the hiring of two new managers this week in a video announcement released April 7.
Former general manger, Jim Diamond, told The Stand two years ago, he left at the end of October 2013 because he and the board “could not come to agree on how the business should be run.” The board terminated his position.
The grand reopening is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, and will feature food demonstrations, samples, tours of the facility and information about the benefits of becoming a food co-op member.
“We’ve got a much better management team now,” Bryant said. “We’ve recruited and developed an advisory board, with a diverse skill set of folks.”
Jeremy DeChario will serve as the interim general manager and Brandi M. Woolridge will serve as the assistant general manager. According to a press release, DeChario also works as the general manager at Syracuse Real Food Co-op and has more than six years of experience working in roles from cashier to management. Woolridge has served on the Eat To Live board since June 2015. The board has hired a total of six new employees including Woolridge’s role. Four of the six live within a few blocks of the store, located at 2323 S. Salina St.
Bryant said the advisory board includes people with experience not only in grocery store management, but also banking and culinary arts, and the board has revamped the store’s business plan. Eat to Live has also implemented new features, like the ability to accept EBT cards from shoppers.
The idea for the co-op started as early as 2006 by The Southside Community Coalition, a group initially organized by Syracuse University, to fill a void by offering fresh produce to residents of the South Side, which at that time was considered a food desert.
The 3,000-square-foot grocery store held its grand opening Oct. 15, 2013 and closed two months later after the Dec. 17, 2013, annual membership meeting. The closing appeared at first to be a temporary shut down for the holidays. At the start of 2014, co-op board members said the store was not making the money needed to keep the operation running and they had to close in order to restructure and search for a new general manager.
A Price Rite grocery store has also been slated to open on the Southwest Side, but Bryant said that Eat to Live is different because it’s a community-owned cooperative. He doesn’t see the two competing.
“I do think both of them can exist and meet the market need for high-quality produce and fresh foods in the area,” he said.
Co-op memberships cost $100 or can be paid in $10 installments (with a $5 processing fee) and can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
— By Ashley McBride, The Stand Staff reporter