Roaring Fork Valley Co-op expands, adds convenience store
After a year of renovation, the Roaring Fork Valley Co-Op is in the process of unveiling its updated facility.
The venerable Carbondale institution got its start in Basalt in 1950, the same year Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton opened his first five-and-dime. It later moved downvalley to the building now occupied by Miser’s Mercantile, then expanded to a location flanking the highway, and finally ended up in its current building at 760 Highway 133 in the 1970s.
An effort by local ranchers and farmers to ensure reasonably priced supplies, the co-op also served the general community with everything from clothing to appliances.
“When I was little, we used to be everything here,” recalled Ellie Fazzi, who started working at the store in high school and has been there for 28 years.
It’s the kind of institution that breeds that sort of longevity and the sort of experienced customer service that goes with it.
“I’ve seen a lot of people retire here,” Fazzi said.
The customers, too, have a certain loyalty. Although you don’t have to be a member to shop there, around 3,000 people have pitched in the $25 lifetime fee. Of those, about a third shop enough to get a check back at the end of the year.
It’s the kind of place where locals plan on spending some extra time catching up with old friends.
“You may not come here to socialize, but you run into people,” Fazzi said. “I think we’re a crucial business in the community because of the products we carry.”
In recent years, the store has found a slightly narrower niche.
“As the times changed, we have changed,” Fazzi said.
The inventory still includes plenty of fence posts and feed, though the emphasis seems to be more on horses than cattle these days. Sneakers and stoves are off the menu, but it’s hard to rival the selection of work gloves, pet food or cowboy boots. There’s gas and diesel from Cenex, a sort of co-op of co-ops, and propane is in the works.
For the most part, if you got it there before the renovation, from chicks in the spring to hunting gear in the fall, it’s still in stock, though potentially in a different spot. Yard tools, hardware and Western wear are well-represented, and the extra room allows for some more power tools, including chainsaws, and an enhanced outdoor sporting section backed by Bass Pro.
“We’re trying to look at what our customers come in and ask for,” general manager Ben Thompson said. “At the end of the day, we’re still going to be a farm, home and ranch supply.”
The most notable change will be a new section to supplement the gas station.
“We’re going to be a traditional convenience store,” Thompson said. “That means everything from Coke and Pepsi to a coffee bar and pastries. It also means convenient hours.”
Starting Monday, the whole operation will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 to 3 on Sundays, though some back-of-the-house offerings may not be available after dark for safety reasons.
The convenience store section itself is still a week or two from completion, among other final touches. Some shelves and fixtures are slated for replacement, but those changes will happen after hours.
“Our goal was to have minimal interruption of business,” Thompson said. “It’s been a challenge, but the employees have been phenomenal, and even though it’s been frustrating at times, our customers have continued to support us.”
“One of the things that the co-op has always been is a local institution,” he added. “It’s run by local people. The owners are local members. The entire purpose of the organization is to serve the community. That’s not going to change.”
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