Dandelion Market saved at the brink
Dandelion Market seemed all but closed. Its deadline to move out of its location in downtown Carbondale is Friday, and the co-op had been stripped down to an all-volunteer staff with dwindling operating hours.
However improbable it seemed, the local food market is getting another chance at life with a new location in Carbondale. That is thanks to Matt and Beth Maun, who own Rhumba Girl Liquors, an adjacent laundromat and a small market at Sopris Avenue and Colorado 133. The couple has offered Dandelion Market a space in their building, and at a deeply discounted rent.
Though the rent will eventually increase, the market will start off paying only $600 in rent, a move to help the organization get back on its feet. A big part of that will include getting vendors paid off. Erica Sparhawk, a relatively new co-op board member who, until recently, was one of only two remaining board members, estimates that Dandelion Market still owes between $30,000 and $40,000 to vendors.
Sparhawk said the Dandelion Market board, now up to the five minimum members required by its bylaws, is working out a plan to get all those vendors paid.
At a co-op meeting Monday, attended by members, some former board members and many dedicated shoppers, the membership decided to move forward with this new location, “and that they would rather see us pay back the vendors than declare bankruptcy and leave them hanging,” said Sparhawk. She added that while market’s finances are being cleared up, they’re finding more debts to vendors that weren’t recorded in co-op’s system.
The Mauns see it as being part of the community, said Sparhawk. “They’re very involved with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce; they understand the importance of sales tax and the importance of supporting local farmers,” she said.
“I think it’s the right thing all around, for Dandelion Market, for us and for the community,” said Beth Maun. “That space needs energy, and we think it’s a good fit.”
The market also still needs to hammer out its lease agreement for the new location. The board’s goal is to take over the lease by July 10, with some delay while state approvals are coming through. Though the Mauns already have a license for a grocery store at this location, it’s not transferable, so health department inspectors will still have to come out and paperwork will have to be completed.
With the deadline right around the corner, Sparhawk said it was “kind of amazing” that the offer of the new location came together.
The market will rely heavily on volunteer support in the beginning, which will help the co-op pay its vendors. And the board aims to bring paid employees back on board. That might be easier said than done, though, as many former employees have found new jobs. In the beginning, the new market will also have fewer staff and fewer operating hours, she said.
The board had to lay off all the market’s staff in May, though many former staffers continued as volunteers. A bookkeeper has also been volunteering, helping clean up the market’s finances. “It’s currently 100 percent volunteers keeping the place together,” said Sparhawk.
The board and membership also hope this new location will attract a new crowd of customers.
“I’ve been impressed by all the community members stepping up to help out,” said Sparhawk. This move will “breathe a lot of new life into the market and its members” with a new location and new energy that will help the co-op recover and thrive, she said.
Wednesday was Dandelion Market’s last day operating at its Main Street location. The market could use volunteer help moving out on Friday, an effort that will start at 9 a.m.
“It’s a very exciting thing for us, and it’s exciting to see how Dandelion Market will develop that side of the building,” said Maun.
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