Lovettsville is in an unusual position: It’s surrounded by a cornucopia of farms, but it doesn’t have a large enough population to warrant its own big-box grocery store.
John DeSaix, along with the rest of the board of the Lovettsville Co-op, plans to change that.
“I really believe the key way to help keep western Loudoun rural is to provide a place year-round where the local producers can know there’s somebody who can buy their produce,” DeSaix said. “Having more local food makes us more independent, and plus the quality is better.”
The Lovettsville Co-op is finally moving toward a physical store after signing a lease in January for a site on the south side of the Lovettsville square/circle with developer Lovettsville South, LLC.
At the co-op board’s annual meeting in February, DeSaix announced the proposed layout of the 5,000-square-foot, environmentally sustainable store, with a local beer and wine section, produce section, a grab-and-go deli and grocery aisles stocked with 75 percent natural and organic foods and as much local products as seasonally possible. The store is also designed with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.
There will be no self-serve hot bar or salad bar. All eating areas will be outdoors, and the parking lot will include spaces for curbside pickup.
“The good news is — we didn’t design it prior to COVID,” DeSaix said. “Our store will be designed to be consistent with best practices.”
The co-op is now raising funds for its capital campaign, enlisting owner-members who will help back the construction and opening of the store, with plans to begin construction in September of this year and open one year later, in September 2022.
While everyone in the community will be welcome to shop at the store, member-owners receive additional, lifetime benefits.
There will be periodic in-store discounts on owner appreciation days, discounts for events like cooking, canning and wellness classes, the ability to vote for the co-op board and a share in the profits based on how much they shop there. And if a member-owner makes a loan to the co-op during the capital campaign, they will not only help open the store but will also earn interest on their investment.
This is one of the major differences between a normal supermarket and the Lovettsville Co-op — DeSaix said that while the Lovettsville Co-op will have paid staff and a full stock of groceries, funds and profits from the store will return to the community.
To help people of all economic backgrounds access healthy local food, the coop will also work with state programs and local food banks.
“Co-ops are special,” DeSaix said. “They’re all about the community coming together and creating something that’s mission-driven.”
“This is being financed primarily by the people of Lovettsville; people in the community,” he said.
Getting to this point has been a more than 10-year journey, DeSaix said.
The original Lovettsville Co-op board held its first meetings in 2010, and eventually started negotiating with Lovettsville for the use of the fire and rescue building.
By 2019, however, Lovettsville — and community interest — had grown. A market study suggested that the firehouse wouldn’t provide enough space.
Working with Gary Large of Eco Developers, they found an affordable space for what will become the flagship store of Lovettsville’s town square.
Since November, DeSaix said dozens of new member-owners have signed up from Lovettsville, Maryland and the community at large.
“It’s just exploded,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the town.”
To find out more about the Lovettsville Co-op, visit lovettsville-grocery.com.