Nordland General Store Co-op CEO Patti Buckland, left, points to an area of the store to a group of visitors at the open house on Saturday in Nordland on Marrowstone Island. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Nordland General Store Co-op CEO Patti Buckland, left, points to an area of the store to a group of visitors at the open house on Saturday in Nordland on Marrowstone Island. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Nordland General Store reimagined as a cooperative

Island investors work to raise funds, formulate inventory

MARROWSTONE ISLAND — A little piece of Marrowstone Island died when the Nordland General Store was destroyed by fire Nov. 5, 2020, but a group of residents has been working over the past four months to rekindle the spirit, qualities and purpose of a gathering spot that was more than a place to buy one’s groceries.

The store has been reimagined as a community cooperative — owned, operated and managed by island residents.

An estimated 160 to 180 people dropped by a Jan. 27 open house at the store on Flagler Road to ask questions, learn about how the cooperative would function and provide feedback on the kinds of products they wanted to see in stock.

“Every single person we talk to wants the store to come back,” said Barcy Fisher, a member of the founding board of directors which is organizing the effort to reopen the store.

Residents have been waiting for the Nordland General Store to reopen since a fire tore through the 1923 structure. Owners Tom and Sue Rose used proceeds from insurance and $35,000 from a GoFundMe campaign organized by their daughter, Meghan Cerotsky, to renovate the building.

But, Tom Rose said, they were not sure they wanted to rebuild the business they had owned since 1994.

“We were starting to wind things down anyway,” he said.

Attempts to find a party to take over running the store were not successful. What became clear was that finding someone to turn a small retail business on an island with fewer than 1,000 residents into a profitable venture probably wasn’t going to happen.

“Nobody was willing or able to start a store,” Fisher said. “The only long-term strategy would be to get the community behind it with an owner co-op structure where everybody has a voice.”

It was decided the best way forward was to make the Nordland General Store a community owned and operated business, similar to Quimper Mercantile Company and the Food Co-op.

An initial round of private fundraising last summer raised more than $300,000 from 68 investors. Sale of $250 lifetime memberships quickly surpassed the original goal of 300.

The private and public fundraising raised enough money to make the venture possible, said Tina Podlodowski, a founding board member.

“Everyone is absolutely thrilled,” Podlodowski said. “We wanted to have enough capital to pay for inventory for the first year and to pay people for the first year.”

A membership won’t be required to shop at the store, but members will have the opportunity to vote for store leadership, have a say in the products it carries and benefit from special offers and discounts. Members can also purchase four to 100 preferred shares for $250 a share.

Those who would like to be a part of the store co-op community but cannot afford a membership can apply for assistance.

Board member Jacob Nachel, who is also a manager at Chimacum Corner Farmstand, has been applying his extensive experience with sourcing local produce and products to put together a list of suppliers.

“We have two main goals,” Nachel said. “We want to support as many local commercial producers as we can and provide as much food as we can to people who live here.”

Nachel estimated there are about 60 producers from around the Olympic Peninsula that can supply the store, such as the island’s Mystery Bay goat cheese, as well as local coffee roasters, commercial fishers, egg and meat purveyors and fruit and vegetable farmers.

The hope is that residents’ first choice will be to shop in a store they’ve invested in rather than at an off-island grocery chain.

One challenge might be competing on price. The other is seasonality.

“Stellar J Farm blueberries are only available for two months out of the year,” Nachel said, when the QFC in Hadlock can offer them year-round.

The store must also balance the needs of island residents with tourists who visit Fort Flagler Historical State Park and other spots during the summer.

There will be a grab-and-go section, wine and beer sales, sundries like beans and pasta, work by local artists and branded merchandise.

“We want a balance between local and convenient, but local will drive our decisions,” board member Patti Buckland said.

There is still a lot of work to do in terms of build-out.

“We basically inherited a shell,” Buckland said.

The 1,800 square feet of bare retail space has a freshly sanded wood floor, new wiring and fixtures, but it lacks shelves, counters and refrigeration units.

At present, there are plans for one full-time manager and the equivalent of three full-time employees in the summer with volunteers pitching in throughout the year.

Still to come are permits from the health and fire departments.

The island’s post office, located in the same building as the store and closed since the fire, has been renovated but is still empty. According to an email from a U.S. Post Office representative, “there is no information available on when the Nordland Post Office is expected to reopen.”

The goal is for the store’s grand opening is to coincide with the Memorial Day weekend Tractor Days celebration, an event started by the Roses and, like the island’s annual Polar Bear Dip and Christmas tree lighting ceremony, will continue.

Fisher said that while the new store might not look exactly like it did before the fire, the aim is to recapture some of the happy memories people have and create new ones.

To make that happen, a lot of work has been going into establishing a plan to put it on solid financial footing.

“We want to create a business that will be sustainable for the long run and will be able to generate some dividends for investors,” Fisher said.

But that is not the reason people are interested in participating in the Nordland General Store cooperative.

“The final measure of return is a community meeting place where you live. That is a good investment,” Fisher said.

To learn about the Nordland General Store, visit www.nordlandgeneralstore.com. Information on how to become a member can be found at www.nordlandgeneralstore.com/invest.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

The historic Nordland General Store opened in the 1920s as a trading post, post office and general store and stood as the island’s commercial and social hub until a fire ravaged the store in November 2020, forcing residents to go Port Hadlock and elsewhere for groceries, mail and other goods. The store will reopen as a co-op in late May. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

The historic Nordland General Store opened in the 1920s as a trading post, post office and general store and stood as the island’s commercial and social hub until a fire ravaged the store in November 2020, forcing residents to go Port Hadlock and elsewhere for groceries, mail and other goods. The store will reopen as a co-op in late May. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

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