Urban Co-op goes from strength to strength

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NOW in its fourth year of operation, Limerick’s Urban Co-op continues to go from strength to strength.

Based at Tait House on the Roxboro Road since September 2016, the co-op is a well-stocked store, selling fruit and vegetables, whole foods, dairy, bakery goods and some frozen foods as well. Almost everything is organic.

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All items stocked have been requested by members and the staff will regularly tell you – “if we don’t have it, just ask, and we’ll try to get it for you.”

So, how did it all start?  

A co-operative conference had been held in Limerick in late 2012 and shortly after, field trips were organised to see successful co-operatives in action. After visiting The Unicorn Grocery Co-op in Manchester and Park Slope Food Co-op in the US, a meeting was announced inviting anyone interested in setting up a community co-operative grocery store in Limerick.

At the first meeting, 45 people turned up and showed a keen interest in the project. Committees were formed and many more meetings were held. Finally in July 2013, the co-op became a reality when 19 people formed Limerick Community Grocery. It began as a buying club where members ordered and paid online every Monday, and collected their boxed veg at a depot on Mulgrave Street each Friday. All labour was voluntary and costs were kept to an absolute minimum.

In January 2014 the co-op opened as a walk-in shop. The product range grew, the opening hours lengthened and at the end of that year the co-op was hugely boosted by a grant from Limerick Regeneration.

Three and a half years later, and now trading as The Urban Co-op, the membership has grown to almost 400. The building in Mulgrave Street was no longer fit for purpose so a move was necessary.

The move to the Tait House compound on the Roxboro Road has been deemed “a re-birth” for the co-op. The space is bigger, brighter and full of potential.

“We moved here in September and it has been a revelation,” said chairperson Deirdre MacMahon.

“The atmosphere here is so different, we feel like part of the bigger Tait House family and we are particularly looking forward to co-operating with them on their Urban Farm project which will begin soon. This is an exciting initiative for Limerick City and the Co-op plans to be an important part of it,” she added.

The move has brought many new customers and members, many of whom are on special diets, as the co-op stocks a good range of specialist foods including gluten-free flours, fermented foods, raw milk and bone broth. Members enjoy the easy-going atmosphere, free parking, well-informed staff and most importantly of all – good value. It is a child-friendly place to shop with friendly staff and volunteers. The kids can draw, use the blackboard or help their parents with the child-sized trolley.

Membership is just €1 or €20 if members wish to get involved with the operation of the co-op and have a vote at meetings. The co-op also organises events, classes, and group meetings.

The Urban Co-op is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 6pm. For more details visit www.theurbanco-op.ie. 

by Alan Jacques

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