Auburn food co-op group considering digital storefront

Meeting slated for Tuesday, Jan. 22 in Auburn will get Clear Lake perspective
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A food co-op effort in Auburn is looking at a Clear Lake co-op operating a digital storefront as a possible business model.

Millie Yan, treasurer for what is being called the Good Food Buyers Club, said Monday that Clear Lake’s five-year-old Lake County Community Co-op has established an online “storefront” that Auburn organizers have observed in a visit last month.

Joann Saccato, operations manager of the Lake County co-op, will be speaking at a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22 to outline how the Clear Lake group has organized and how its digital storefront works, Yan said.

“It’s an online process,” Yan said. “In Lake County, people can get a standard box (of produce and other locally produced farm-raised food) every week.”

The digital storefront, which would also have a phone component for those with no Internet access, would be an important step in moving toward establishing a bricks and mortar location.

“There are certainly challenges with the digital storefront – not everyone has digital access,” Yan said. “Theoretically they can go to the library and use it there. We could also have orders by phone for people who aren’t using the Internet. We want to make it available for everyone.”

Jean Bardakjian, another member of the food co-op steering committee, said that the Placer Local Food Alliance has provided help to move the effort forward, including securing funding from the California Center for Cooperative Development. Luis Sierra, deputy director of the center, will provide an introduction for Tuesday’s talk.

Bardakjian said that the steering committee is still establishing the direction potential co-op members want to go and no site, for instance, has been chosen for an eventual bricks and mortar store.

“We need to develop a membership base,” Bardakjian said. “We’re also trying to reach out to local farmers and people who make things. We could have a diverse array of products.”

The meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22 at the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife office at 11641 Blocker Drive’s Creekside office complex in Auburn. The meeting is a potluck and open to anyone interested – or think they might be interested – in moving the food buyers club and co-op idea forward, Bardakjian said. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Ideally, a brick and mortar store is the ultimate goal, Yan said.

“This doesn’t just have the potential of working with local farmers to connect with local consumers,” Yan said. “It’s also about rallying around the community for something good. One thing we can agree on is that we all like good food – and everyone deserves to be healthy.”