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West Michigan Cooperative sees growth, opportunities in new space on Michigan Avenue

Accessibility, a convenient location and room to grow were three of the most important factors for West Michigan Cooperative (Co-op) leaders when searching for a space to call their own.

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To learn more about West MIchigan Co-op, including how to become a member, visit their website.

West Michigan Co-op members shop at the March 2014 pick-up night.

West Michigan Co-op members shop at the March 2014 pick-up night. /Keri Amlotte

The new West Michigan Co-op building at 1475 Michigan Ave.

The new West Michigan Co-op building at 1475 Michigan Ave. /Keri Amlotte

Since their founding in 2006, West Michigan Co-op, a Grand Rapids based online farmers market, had been sharing space with other businesses during their monthly pick-up nights. But after years of growth, West Michigan Co-op had outgrown the shared space on Godfrey Ave. that they had been using.

During a weekly shopping cycle each month, members of West Michigan Co-op shop online and place orders for local food and other goods. Then, at the once-a-month pick-up nights, the members meet the “producers” (farmers and other local businesses) at West Michigan Co-op to pick up their orders. On average, West Michigan Co-op sees 200 shoppers and 30 producers each month.

Elizabeth Van Doorne, Director of Operations at West Michigan Co-op, said that it took their search team six months to find a space that met all of their needs. But they found it at 1475 Michigan Ave. NE in Grand Rapids, signed the lease, moved in, and opened their doors for the October 2013 pick-up night event.

Five months later, Van Doorne said that the response to the new space has been very positive from both members and producers.

“Overall, everyone has been really happy with how comfortable the new space is and how easy it is to get in and out,” she said.

Van Doorne said that one of the limitations to their old space was that stairs limited accessibility. Since moving into the new building, she said they are seeing a lot more families with small children in strollers. People are also bringing wheeled carts and coolers. The new space is also wheelchair accessible.  

Van Doorne said that the new building required some minor work to get it ready for their pick-up nights.  

“We painted and updated some lighting," she says. "And our board president created the signage for the exterior of the building.”

WIth the additional space of the new building, Van Doorne says West Michigan Co-op is eager to grow.

“We just finished a new membership drive, And we definitely plan to add new producers,” says Van Doorne.

Looking ahead, Van Doorne said they will be installing equipment to hold cooking demonstrations such as cheese making demonstrations.

“We want to be able to offer more hands-on stuff and a more fun atmosphere,” she says. “We will also be featuring two producers each month at our pick-up nights where they can provide samples and information about their farming and business practices. We didn’t have room for that in our old building.”

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