It has been decades since Bessie Gaul could walk from her apartment near Bowdoin-Geneva and get fresh food in a high-quality store. But last Saturday morning, she went shopping with a smile as the long-awaited Dorchester Food Coop (DFC) opened its doors on the ground floor of a new building at 195 Bowdoin St.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 54 years,” said Gaul, who was with her adult granddaughter, Shanice Richards. “We never have had a real supermarket since we lost the one on Columbia Road. You couldn’t walk to get food anywhere. I want something close by me.”
Richards agreed: “I am excited about it. I love that there’s so much organic food and it has strong ties to the community. I just moved to the area recently, but I’ve found stores are farther apart and you have to deal with traffic.”
The notion of the coop is credited to Jenny Silverman, who enlisted hundreds of helpers over the years to sign up members and make it a reality. Nightingale Community Garden coordinator Elnora Thompson recalled pulling a wagon full of paperwork to garden events to sign up people for memberships as far back as 12 years ago.
The idea is that anyone can shop at the store, but those interested can also become owner-members for a one-time payment of $100. Workers at the store also have an option to have an ownership stake as well – making it community-and-worker-owned. Owner-members cangive input into store inventory and operations, receive a share of profits if the store is profitable, and get special discounts on items.
The store is full-service with stocked shelves of non-perishable items, a meat department, fruits and vegetables and a coffee/bakery area.
“Today our amenity comes to life; our dream opens its doors,” said DFC Board member Sarah Assefa in welcoming the crowd for the ribbon cutting and noting there were more than 1,700 member-owners now.
Board Treasurer Jenny Silverman cut the official ribbon as other board members and elected officials celebrated. Seth Daniel photos
Mayor Wu, who attended the grand opening, said it was a store “of the people, by the people and for the people.” She added: “Food is the first, most basic way we can meet each other across generations and differences.”
City Councillor Brian Worrell also took note of the new deal for Bowdoin-Geneva: “We’ve never had a lot of healthy food options and today that has changed with the Dorchester Food Coop opening.”
General Manager John Santos said the store was supposed to open in June, and employees were ready to get to work, but delays in the permitting and construction process pushed the opening to October. The store is now open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Elnora Thompson, Marilyn Stout, Lynn Murray, and Jenny Silverman.
Fruits and vegetables lined the shelves at the new store.
Niam Shah, project General Contractor (from One Way Development) Sumul Shah and State Rep. Russell Holmes.
Davida Andelman and Bill Walczak.
Meetinghouse Hill's Shirley Jones and Councillor Ruthzee Louijeune.
Celebrating the opening were (back, L-R) State Rep. Chris Worrell, Councillor Brian Worrell, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Mayor Michelle Wu, Councillor Ruthzee Louijeune, and Jenny Silverman. (front, L-R) Miriam Gee and Mark ‘Scooter’ Adams.
Board member Sarah Assefa welcomed everyone to the opening.
Mayor Michelle Wu recalled signing up as a DFC member many years ago when approached while walking down Bowdoin Street.
General Manager John Santos said it has been a long process to get to the opening but was ecstatic to welcome the community into the store finally.