Easthampton, MA

River Valley Co-op Not Only Reopening But Expanding to Easthampton

Terianne Falcone

The new store will be state-of-the-art energy-efficient, providing 100% of its own power.

Poster for Easthampton openingScreenshot of website by author

The date is set, the store is getting stocked, the decorations are nearly all bought, the news is getting out, and the ribbon will soon be cut.

River Valley Co-op is opening another store in Easthampton. And the new Easthampton branch will be able to boast of being even greener than the Northampton site. The Easthampton River Valley Co-op will be generating 100% of its electric needs with solar. The achievement was made by going beyond rooftop solar; solar canopies have been constructed that shade the parking lot and produce an ample amount of electricity.

A Short History of the River Valley Co-op

The Northampton location had started as a long-abandoned rock quarry carved between 1870-1921. What was left of the quarry was a flat plateau surrounded by cliffs on three sides. The stone had been used to build King Street as well as Routes 5 and 10.

The perfect place to build a co-op, right? The cliff gives the store a beautiful backdrop and a natural separation from the tree area and the nearby neighborhood.

But it wasn't that easy, and the quarry had not been the first, nor the second choice!

Back in 1997 that community members first met at Forbes Library to consider the possibility of a consumer-owned store in Northampton. They started writing grants, and in 1999, they received funding for planning and a feasibility study. The number of owner-members that have signed up was over 200. The following year at the first Annual Meeting,member-owners voted for the first time and chose the name "River Valley Market."

The following year the Hill and Dale Mall on King Street was chosen as the location. But negotiations fell through.

After more research and grant money spent, negotiations began for a site in the Potpourri Mall. The Potpourri is just up and across the street from the first location.

By now, River Valley Market started to receive substantial grants -- half a million and more. They purchased a liquor license. Architects created detailed plans for the Potpourri Mall site; however, it turned out there was a deed restriction prohibiting grocery sales. Clearly, that was a problem for a market.

Then finally -- three times a charm-- the North King Street Old Quarry site granted a long-term lease on the land. Community forums of owner-members discussed plans for the Old Quarry site. Various hurdles arose; nonetheless, construction began in 2007. The green construction of the green building was completed a year later. The site creates 5% of its own energy via a rooftop solar system. An art project entryway was installed, and volunteers planted native perennials. Membership soared past 2,500 just before opening day.

The River Valley opening coincided with-- or perhaps helped create? -- a revival of a community of local farms, businesses, institutions, and organizations committed to sustainability and local sources. River Valley Co-op has supported local producers with a workable and sustainable market.

The original sitePhoto in public domain

As mentioned earlier, River Valley is expanding to another branch in Easthampton, 11 years after the Northampton opening.

Here's a fun time-lapse video of the construction of the Easthampton store.

And for those who want a peek of the inside of the new store, here's a virtual tour.

According to their website, River Valley's vision is to be more than just a market but also a community hub, a motor to local farms and other food sources, and a fair employer to a unionized local workforce.

As for sustainability, the new store in Easthampton has state-of-the-art energy which will rely on virtually no fossil fuel use. The exception is the use of propane needed by food production machines.

Perhaps this is the topper: the parking lot includes electric vehicle chargers. Let's hope that leads to other businesses doing the same.

The original Northampton locationDaily Hampshire Gazette - Creative Commons License


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I've moved back to this area after living abroad for 15 years. Both the landscape and the people are beautiful. People are kind to each other here in Northampton, MA. Thus, as I get reacquainted and go see all the cool stuff, I shall share with you! And, I have fun stories from abroad!

Northampton, MA

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