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The Lost River Market Story (Part 3)

The building Lost River Market currently occupies was originally built in 1949 as a Jay-C grocery store. Through the decades the building has hosted many different businesses including the Wilson Roberts variety store, which many locals remember fondly, and an interior decorating store owned by Terry and Brenda Cornwell. The store being located in the downtown area was a major selling point for the board. The group knew they wanted to invest in historic downtown Paoli. Because of the building's age, the first order of business was to gut the building and replace all electrical wiring and plumbing, put in new flooring, and eventually replaced the block front wall with four large windows. The general construction was overseen by local carpenter, Phil Mininger, and contractor "Tag" Taggart. Through a series of community meetings, some help from UNFI and some crayons, a vision of the store's layout was drawn up. Using chalk and string the board created a map in the building of what the store would look like and allowed local community members to walk around and give feedback. As construction was completed things moved fast. Equipment needed to be purchased, staff needed hiring, and inventory needed to be bought. In all the chaos it was noted that no one involved had experience with inventory purchasing for a grocery store. What products do we buy and from what brands? How much of each thing do we need? Once inventory is received what is the optimal way to organize the shelves? Fortunately, there were many people willing to help with this process. UNFI representative and Paoli native, Kara Schmidt, was instrumental in the ordering and stocking of the store. Susan Bright from Bloomingfoods and Cathy Gifford, board member, determined our inventory lists and what the store should buy. Carbondale Co-op in southern Illinois pitched in and helped stock shelves. With things moving so quickly, the board had opening day on the mind. Brad Alstrom, the store's first general manager, was brought to Paoli from Oregon about three months before opening day. A staff was hired, shelves were stocked and on October 23rd, 2007 Lost River Market was officially open for business. Bringing together all of these people, organizations, and resources, the entire process from purchasing the building to opening day was 10 months. Now, 12 years later, Lost River Market member-owners, management, and staff continue to nurture the seed that was planted back in 2005 at that first community meeting. The ride has been a rocky one, which many can attest to. However, what makes Lost River Market special isn't something captured by balance sheets and income statements, but what the store stands for. Lost River is about bringing people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and upbringings together to create something more than any one individual. Lost River Market is a store dedicated to serving the needs of local growers, producers, and consumers by providing goods, services, and healthy food choices at fair value while promoting economic prosperity, and self-reliance through cooperation. It is the belief in community, cooperation and people that allows Lost River Market to be a part of the Orange County Community today.

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