By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,680)
It’s been years since Munjoy Hill had a full-service grocery store, but come this fall that large void will be filled according to the Portland Food Co-op (PFC) Board President, Daniel Ungier. His announcement came at a noon press conference at 290 Congress Street, the site of the 5,000 sq. ft. space the non-profit has just signed a lease to occupy beginning in September of 2014. About 3,000 sq. ft. of that space will be dedicated solely to the retail space; the rest for storage, etc. Known for the Rite-Aid Pharmacy located there, its owned by the Catholic Church in Portland.
The community-owned market will feature high quality and fairly priced local, natural and organic products. That will include produce, meat, fish, dairy, frozen foods, health and beauty products, beer and wine as well as a huge variety of bulk items not available elsewhere – everything that this dynamic and growing community on the East End of Portland needs to satisfy its appetite for healthy and sustainable food in a very accessible location. ‘We couldn’t be happier with the site. Not only is it within sight of our current Hampshire Street location, but it’s right in the middle of the Portland Peninsula, with easy access from 1 295, plenty of parking and reachable to thousands of people by foot or bike,” said Ungier.
“Prices are expected to be competitive with other stores in the area. Our priority isn’t about making a profit,” said Ungier.”This is a co-op.” Last October, PFC launched its Let’s Open the Doors campaign to sign up 1,000 new member owners needed to help open the market. Member-owners buy one share in the cooperative business, which is a one-time $100 equity investment. That entitles member-owners to be part of the decision-making process for the PFC Market. Any profits left over at year-end will be distributed back to the member-owners. The community is encouraged to make this one-time investment by signing up on-line at www.portlandfood.coop.
Jim Hanna, a long-time food security advocate and a member of the Mayor’s Food Task Force said: “It’s an opportunity to make fresh, local, health food accessible to the neighborhood. Good outreach is important to the low-income community. Let everyone know they are welcome here.” Christine Pompeo, of South Sudan has a one acre farm on Cape Elizabeth and lives in Portland. Her husband is deceased, but her four children help her farm the plot. She and her husband were vegetable farmers in South Sudan. “Farming is a lot different here than over there,”she said. “It was a much longer growing season over there because of the constant 90 degree temperature,” she said laughing at the difference in climate. “I’m looking forward to selling at the co-op and being part of a business that wants to buy from local farmers first.”
From 1980 to 1990, Paul Trusani owned a Paul’s Food Center at 290 Congress Street. Shortly after he opened, Phil Levinsky, owner of Levinsky’s (clothing) bought the plaza. His successful business took up much of the ample parking there, leaving Paull’s Food Center with no parking for its customers. “I could not compete with Levinsky’s” Trusani said in a delightful telephone conversation. (The former Levinsky’s is now the site of Maine Medical Center’s Family Medicine). In 1990, Trusani closed down the 290 Congress Street to focus on his 585 Congress Street Food Center. In addition, from about 1975 – to 1980, Trusani owned a food store on Munjoy Hill where the Front Room is now located. He bought the business from Federated Cos.
For a brief time during the 1990s, a discount non-perishable food store was located at 290 Congress Street. Some of the neighbors called it the “Dented Can Discount” store.