The Gardiner Food Co-op & Cafe was recently awarded a $90,000 Community Development Block Grant to help fund the downtown storefront that’s set to open in late May, according to a release from the co-op.

The co-op, which is owned and governed by its members, has had 330 people sign up to be members, just a little shy of its goal of 360, according to its website.

The money from the grant will be used to provide working capital and to acquire much needed equipment for the storefront at 269 Water St., according to the release.

The State of Maine Community Development Block Grant Program is funded annually through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last year, the state’s program received 29 applications totaling over $7 million dollars in requests and funded 18 applications through the program’s $2.7 million allocation, the release said.

The city of Gardiner sponsored the application, and Eric Dyer, general manager of the co-op, said the group is appreciative of the efforts by city staff and the mayor.

“The support of this project by the community at large has been inspiring, but we could not have received these critical funds without the support of the city of Gardiner,” he said in the release.

The store and cafe plans to offer grocery items, soup, sandwiches, coffee drinks and more, with a focus on local, organic and fair-trade items.

Patrick Wright, the city’s economic development coordinator, said the awarding of the grant is “a win for city and the region and highlights the benefits of collaboration between local government and community organizations.”

“The co-op project is a perfect example of the convergence of community and economic development,” he said in the release. “The future economy in Maine will be based on the confluence of quality of place along with balancing a local and global economy.”

George Gervais, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said the co-op will have a positive impact in both the city and the region by creating new employment opportunities and providing a market for local products and vendors.”

“This project is a great example of the intent of our CDBG Economic Development Program,” Gervais said, “which focuses on encouraging local businesses and incorporating new private investment into our economic development infrastructure.”

The co-op is hosting a public Earth Day event at 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the storefront for people to find more about the project and meet organizers and other member-owners.


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