The Growth of a Cooperative: Lost River Market and Deli

Posted on Aug 27 2018 in Orange County REMC

Mark Belcher

The cooperative model is one that works in the favor of the community that it’s in, and Orange County REMC is not the only local example of this.

Lost River Market and Deli was founded 10 years ago in Paoli. Since then, local farmers and producers have been sharing the results of their growing efforts throughout the seasons, and the community around them is able to purchase the fresh, local seasonal produce. During off-season times, the store stocks its shelves with natural, organic foods.

Now with more than 1,130 member-owners, a newly renovated store that functions as both a grocery and a café with catering services, and a supportive and grateful town, Lost River Market and Deli is allowing neighbors to help neighbors.

In September 2005, efforts began to start this cooperative, and after the initial meeting which was attended by over 60 participants, the idea was solidified. In October 2007, Lost River Market and Deli opened its doors. Many members of the community became member-owners in the push to get the store opened, lending money to the fledgling enterprise. This money was spent in the renovation of the building and in the hiring of the staff.

It wasn’t an easy start for the cooperative. One year after the opening, the 2008 recession arrived. The national economy was brought to a standstill, and the “little experiment in healthy community, well-being, and local self-reliance,” as described by a founding member Andy Mahler, was put to the test.

The cooperative, and the community around it, survived the economic calamity, and the connection and mutual support this community has is embodied in the store. The loyal customer base, the fully stocked shelves, the member-owners, and the wonderful staff keep the cooperative afloat and allow fresh, local food to benefit the thriving community.

Not only does the cooperative provide food, it also reaches out to the community by allowing students from schools in the surrounding area the opportunity to come in and learn about producers and the local economy.

Visit Lost River Market and Deli, located at 26 Library St. in Paoli to not only purchase natural and organic food, plus as many local products as possible on a seasonal basis, but also to support the local community, residents and farmers alike.

Mark Belcher
Member Services Manager