Maple City Market belongs to the people of Goshen
Maple City Market has been a mainstay in the thriving food scene in downtown Goshen since 1981, when it incorporated as Center-In Food Co-op. Its roots date back even earlier, to the 1970s, when a number of Goshen residents formed a buying club.
Goshen, aka the Maple City, has a farmers market and a good selection of grocery stores, but what makes Maple City Market unique in the city is its status as a co-op, which translates into ownership by more than 3,000 members who exercise democratic control by voting and who are able to run for positions on the board of directors. Members make 75% of purchases, although nonmembers are welcome.
“We’re incorporated for members, which helps to keep us a viable locally owned store,” says general manager Brad Alstrom. “Not many communities have a co-op, so this ownership piece is vital for us.”
Shared ownership fosters community, and in this spirit Alstrom views Maple City Market’s relationship with downtown Goshen as essential and hopes to deepen this tie in years to come. The co-op is a member of Downtown Goshen Inc. and sometimes participates in summer First Fridays events by offering tasty grilled fare just outside the main entrance. It sells wholesale to two prominent downtown eateries, Goshen Brewing Company and Constant Spring, and Alstrom welcomes more wholesale business.
“Hopefully, we’re serving a niche downtown as a grocery store within walking distance of downtown neighborhoods and businesses,” he says. “There’s a need for co-ops in downtown areas.”
Customers who walk in the co-op’s doors will find a wide variety of produce, meat and other food items, many of which come from local producers and processors. These include greens from Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen and Sustainable Greens in Three Rivers, MI; hydroponically grown greens from Yoder’s Produce Farm in Goshen; pork from Jake’s Country Meats in Cassopolis, MI; chicken from Miller Poultry in Orland, IN; bison from Cook’s Bison Ranch in Wolcottville, IN; and local honey and maple syrup. Alstrom would like to expand the local lineup with additional products, including more locally produced cheese. Local products bolster the co-op’s general selection, which comprises pasta sauce, jams, nonlocal produce and more.
Produce is the most important item the co-op sells, says Alstrom, and produce manager Annie Mininger is back in her role after being away. Mininger is working hard at reconnecting with area farmers, and is proud of the fact that all produce sold at the co-op is grown according to organic practices (although not necessarily certified organic). She is striving to not only compete with other area groceries, but also to bring new customers in the door. Produce, she believes, is the key.
“Co-ops have core lifestyle shoppers, and we’re trying to pull in mid-level shoppers. Studies show that produce is the gateway,” she says. “People choose stores by their produce section, and people choose produce sections for freshness and quality.”
Mininger views fresh produce as a colorful draw to get people in the store who, once inside, will find a deli lunch counter, which provides delicious meals every weekday at lunchtime, and a myriad of classes on the second Thursday of each month. Class topics have included soil health, selling seeds, essential oils for spring cleaning and more.
Maple City Market is part of larger co-op of sorts—National Co+op Grocers. Almost 150 food co-ops belong to this organization, which provides them with resources and expertise.
“Being part of a national organization helps,” says Alstrom. “What’s great is that we’re part of something bigger.”