By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff
Dandelion Market, Carbondale’s natural foods outlet, is in the midst of a kind of resurrection following its closure earlier this year due to the loss of its lease on its original Main Street location.
Over the past couple of months, a band of volunteers and board members have worked feverishly to reopen the market in a new location next to the Rhumba Girls liquor store on Highway 133, across the highway from the Wells Fargo bank.
With a new board of directors, a new manager, and a new location, the byword of the day for the store is simple, said board member Richard Vottero: “survival.”
The new Dandelion Market reopened on Aug. 19, and is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Manager Terri Anzini, former owner of another natural foods store, The Annex, is working with a staff of volunteers that, it is hoped, will help keep the overhead down to a manageable level while the store works to pay off what board member Erica Sparhawk said is perhaps $40,000 in debt to vendors.
“We’re running a tight ship,” said Sparhawk on Aug. 22. “We have some cleanup to do” on such matters as getting the store’s fiscal house in order and rebuilding what once was a roster of some 600 paid members.
Sparhawk, who also serves on the Carbondale Board of Trustees and works as program manager with the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) energy efficiency organization, said the co-op is working from an email list of about 400 people and hopes to reconnect with everyone who was an active member before the store closed at its former location.
“This is going to really be starting from scratch,” predicted Anzini in an interview on Aug. 21, explaining that the organization is gradually filling up its shelves in anticipation of a growth in customers.
She said the board and she have reworked the organizational structure of the store to ensure it never again runs into the kind of trouble that forced its closure.
The store’s current plan, said Sparhawk, has three prongs — “a smaller space, lower rent, and lower labor costs.”
Sparhawk and Anzini both said the current roster of about eight volunteers is enough to cover the store’s operating hours. But Sparhawk said the optimal number would be about 15 volunteers able to take on regular shifts, and invited interested volunteers to stop by and sign up.
With a deeply discounted initial rental rate that is expected to increase in the future, Sparhawk said, the store is off to a good restart. She said that the landlords were happy to offer a one-year lease with a renewal option, and that they “really would like us to be long-term tenants” on longer-term leases.
She said the building’s owners, Matt and Beth Maun, are hoping the combined customer bases of the liquor store and the Dandelion Market will complement each other, with each drawing potential customers to the other’s door.
Board members and Anzini all expressed the hope that the store is over the worst of its rough patch, which started several years ago.
After an initial four-year period of profitability, followed by about that same number of years of expansion and a lack of profits, the store ran into trouble this year with rising debts and the loss of the lease at its original location, 559 Main St.
Last spring, the store was forced to close its doors and, after a period of relatively frantic internal discussions, reopen in a new location and with a new lease (so to speak) on life in a 600-square-foot space owned by the Mauns.
The new space, which formerly housed a laundromat, is about the same size as the original Carbondale Community Food Co-op before it started expanding, said board member Erica Sparhawk.
While Vottero and Sparhawk were the main motive force for keeping the store alive and getting it a new space, Sparhawk was quick to point out, “We couldn’t have done it without the other board members stepping up, and the donors.”
Plus, she said, the store wrangled a $5,000 loan from an organization known at the Two Forks Club, a nonprofit funding group that offers loans to farmers, co-ops and other small businesses in the North Fork and Roaring Fork river valleys.
Still, she went on, “We’re open to accepting more donations” to help the market regain its footing.