Online co-op grocery counts on strength in numbers

Purchasing power for the people, by the people.

That’s not some catchy slogan from a recently created nation state, but rather the mission statement behind a co-op grocery business that’s looking to gain traction in Vancouver.

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Community Grocer is the brainchild of Michael Menashy, a serial entrepreneur who’s successfully established, refined and flipped businesses over a 20-year period.

The central idea behind Community Grocer is strength in numbers and follows the logic of bulk purchasing for more affordable prices for the consumer. The more members who buy into the concept, the cheaper the products are bought and eventually sold.

The focus is on organic, locally sourced food and other household needs that offer little to no negative environmental footprint.

“I’m really hoping that we can get this model together and prove that it works, so we can publish papers on it,” Menashy said. “Then people in different cities around the world can see what we’re doing and this can hopefully revolutionize how we do groceries and organics will become highly in demand.”

Community Grocer works by way of members buying into a $50 yearly membership. Members then order everything online, and pick up the product at a storefront location within 48 hours. Delivery services will also be offered, and Menashy is in the process of negotiating a lease for his storefront location near Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street.

Members select all of the items in stock via a taste-test vote, and only one type of a specific item will be carried.

“That way all the buying power is behind that one item rather than being spread out or diffused amongst three different items and making things more expensive,” said Menashy, 43.

On top of the member voting system, extra points are awarded to items that are organic, local to B.C. and sourced from fair trade labour. 

Menashy’s business acumen took root when he was 22. He helped build ceramic tile business that reached across North America, Australia, the U.K., and managed warehouse facilities with millions of dollars in inventory. He then founded a subscription-based tea service called Tea Sparrow that’s garnered ink from CTV, Buzzfeed, Global TV and the National Post.

Money aside, the concept of organic food also hits close to home. Menashy has dealt with digestive complications for more than a decade and eats healthily to mitigate those complications. 

“I started noticing my values around eating organic, non-GMO and fair-trade products was coming out of our family budget — it was becoming unfeasible,” he said. “I realized to myself that it was a ridiculous situation and I got quite upset. It doesn’t feel good to know something isn’t healthy for you and then act contrary to the knowledge and still buy it because the healthy alternative is too expensive. Something needed to be done.”

Community Grocer is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign that aims to net 150 members who’ll pay $50 for an annual membership to get the concept off the ground. If that magic number is achieved, Menashy can place his first order and offer members 20 per cent off of all the items.  As of April 17, the campaign had netted $1,605 towards its $7,500 goal.

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