Urban Co-Op celebrates 10 brave years in the community

Anne Maher with members of The Urban Co-Op team.

IT TAKES just a tiny, determined seed to grow a mighty tree. 10 years ago, the Limerick Community Grocery was that little seed.

Now, better known these days as The Urban Co-op, they have come a long way and are still growing.

Having stepped up from their first home in Mulgrave Street to their much larger space in Eastway Business Park via a two-year stop in Tait House, Anne Maher, Managing Director told the Limerick Post, the move was not lacking in trepidation.

“It was a brave step at the time. We were looking at this huge, cavernous space. But we knew it was a space that would allow us to do so many of the things we wanted to do and it has.”

The Urban Co-op is still a shop where people can buy organic, local produce but it’s become much more than that.

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“Now we can offer community space as a wellbeing hub to people who offer those services. We are creating a real co-operative space that inspires action, whether that’s to meet socially, start a business, or take control of our own health.”

“We’re a social enterprise. We’re about enabling people to live better lives. The pandemic has changed people’s view a lot. They are now taking a much more pro-active approach to looking after their own health and wellbeing,” says Anne.

Community values

This is a social hub in more ways than one. People you would never think would have any interest in organic food come to shop.

The values of The Urban Co-op operation are community, trust, and sustainability, and these all inspire the growth and direction of the operation.

“We open seven days a week and that is important for all the community. It gives local suppliers access to customers and customers access at a time that works for them.

“A lot of people arrange to visit here to meet up with friends. It has become a social space. Magic happens here when people meet. They may get inspired to try producing or selling something or doing something in the community space.

“After the pandemic, we’re very much about stitching people back together and connecting them again. This is about the power of people and it works.”

Managing director Anne acknowledges that it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point with a dedicated team. Now employing eight people with dedicated volunteers supporting, this community enterprise has sights on the future.

“We were set up as a company limited by guarantee at the beginning in 2013 to get the enterprise started. The objective to develop an urban co-operative is now in process as we move towards becoming a community owned organisation with legal co-operative status.”

“We also want to be a model that can be replicated in other communities, something that is a blueprint that works. We want this to expand and grow and have it funded by the community members themselves who effectively become the philanthropists for the future. Here’s to the next 10 years.”