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Dandelion Market keeps planning ahead

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Future of current location uncertain

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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The Dandelion Market in Carbondale (formerly known as the Carbondale Community Food Co-op) will be holding its annual members meeting Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., and on the agenda will be discussion of the possibility that the store needs to find a new home.

The meeting is to be held at the Third Street Center (the old Carbondale Elementary School building at the south end of S. 3rd Street) and is scheduled to last until 7:30 p.m., according to store manager Katrina Byars, who said the public is welcome to attend.

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Byars said the store, which opened eight years ago after starting out as a natural foods buying club in 2007, might lose the lease on its current location in June of 2017. But, she continued, an attorney representing property owner Bren Simon had informed the co-op board simply that it would not be able to renew its lease when it expires, though the door apparently remains open for renegotiating a new lease if desired.

The current location, at 559 Main St., has been expanded twice, moving into neighboring lease-able space when other tenants moved out.

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Currently, the store is doing well financially and in other ways, noted Byars, who also serves as a trustee on the town board.

“We’re having record sales, and everything is expanding,” she said with satisfaction.

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A newspaper story published last July announced that, following rumors of financial difficulties, the store managed to reorient itself, trim some unproductive practices, drop its markup on products from 50 percent to 35 percent, and raise wages for store employees.

Now, Byars told The Sopris Sun on Monday, the store once again has outgrown its quarters.

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In part, she said, that is because the store’s management is hoping to expand its cooking facilities into a true commercial kitchen that can be leased out to other groups, including local organic food growers who want to process their farm goods into retail packaged foods, in what Byars termed an “incubator kitchen.”

Right now, she said, the co-op cooks up vegetarian curry, chai and salads on offer to its customers for free, “sort of like a friend-raiser,” she said with a chuckle.

But it soon plans to begin charging and to expand its menu.

Other hoped-for changes, she said, include a walk-in refrigerator.

The store recently made arrangements to carry meat products provided by the Nieslanik ranching family on White Hill just outside of Carbondale, Byars said, and is talking with the family about forming a partnership to establish a local-meats butcher shop.

There are hopes to start up a gluten-free bakery, which Byars believes will fill an underserved need among local consumers.

All these expanded services, she said, would provide “a huge economic benefit” to local growers and food producers, and to the town.

In order to accomplish all this, Byars explained, the store is planning to apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture “rural economic development grant” that would foot the bill for more space and updated facilities.

“I think we would at least need to double what our square footage is here, to make it worth it” to move to a new location, Byars remarked.

The store’s management is “still shopping” for a location, she said, noting that they had looked at four in the downtown area already — and stressing that the store must remain downtown to properly serve its clientele.

In the meantime, she said, there is still a possibility that the lease might be renegotiated and the Dandelion Market will stay put, for now.

Published in The Sopris Sun on November 17, 2016.

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