Since its beginnings in 1991, Harvest Co-op has been investing in its members’ commitment to organic and local food, and putting savings back in their wallets. With a new location on Washington Street in Jamaica Plain—it’s been up-and-running since Dec. 12 and a grand opening celebration is scheduled for Jan. 16—that commitment continues to grow and membership at all three locations is nearing 4,000. This comes on the heels of a move for the store in Central Square, Cambridge.
Chris Durkin, director of membership and community relations, took some time to talk about the expansion, why JP is such a good fit for Harvest, and the role of a co-op in a community.
The following is a condensed and edited version of that conversation.
Why did Harvest decide to expand?
It was a combination of lot things. We were able to expand to a new market not physically that far from the JP store but on other side of underpass. It’s very accessible to mass transit. Being on the JP/Roslindale line, we have a lot of new members. We’ve gained 105 new members in the less than a month that we’ve been open. We offer expanded product lines, we were able to expand our bulk food section and open a deli, and parking is big, as well as access to the orange line.
The people who built it went around and asked the neighborhood what they wanted. They wanted Harvest. It seemed like a really good fit.
Tell me a bit more about the store's green component.
When we talked to the developer, we said we wanted very big, thermal windows for a lot of natural light and warmth. We have environmental shades near the cash registers. We use a glycol cooling system. It’s water based versus oil based. There are fewer leaks and leaks that come out of the system are not toxic. It keeps temps better, which means products last longer. It cuts down on defrost time, which saves electricity. It saves us money, saves energy, and is better for the environment.
Our plastic bags are gas-based, not oil-based. Also, selling in bulk and selling organic are components [to our green commitment].
How is JP a good fit for Harvest?
We’ve been looking to expand Harvest in JP for a long time. And it’s next to Roslindale and Hyde Park. In the ’90s, a lot of people not only wanted an alternative to regular supermarkets but also to corporate ownership . . . In 1999, JP signed up over 1,000 members in the first month. JP has progressive values and a feeling of community. It’s just a very active place that supports things like local businesses.
How does Harvest benefit the community?
We are community owned. Last month, for the fourth year in a row, we issued patronage rebate checks. The profits go back to members. It’s not just the financial part, but the fact that we’re a community owned place in an area that really supports community owned.
Tell me about your product selection.
We like to support as much as possible local, organic, fair trade products such as 21st Century tofu, Batch ice cream. We try to get as local as possible because that’s what our members and customers expect. We’re constantly tweaking what we sell and surveying members and the public.