Non-profit sells local produce
After five consecutive years of surveys done by Waterville Main Street--a non-profit aimed at revitalizing downtown Waterville--the demand was clear: residents and area college students wanted a local grocery store. Now, with the grand opening of Barrels Community Market on Main Street, that wish has been granted.
"Everyone loved the idea of a co-op with fresh vegetables," Market Manager David Gulak said, "and we were after something that everyone's into."
Barrels, which officially opened its doors in The Barrel Block on Main Street (across the street from Jorgensen's Café) on September 12, is a nonprofit market that sells locally-grown produce, locally-produced goods and offers educational programs, as well as live music and lectures in its community event space. The market, which the College helped start with a gift of $15,000, also sells its locally grown food at wholesale prices to area restaurants--such as Mainely Brews, The Last Unicorn and Jorgensen's--which then get put to use as fresh ingredients.
"It needs to be more than a store," Gulak said. "We're also going to have community programs to teach things like raising chickens, how to plant a garden, how to cook and why [one should] buy local."
At the grand opening, Barrels featured a whittling demonstration by a local craftsman. Selling these kinds of local goods, which are made using traditional methods and local materials through organic or chemical-free processes, is an intriguing aspect of the store, as about half the market is occupied by such items ranging from dishware to soap to yarn to wind chimes to candles to paintings to jewelry to birdhouses--and even laundry detergent.
"It's cool to know that what you're buying comes from around here," Liz Powell '10 said at the grand opening, and "that you're supporting locally grown foods."
Barrels also sells salads and pre-packaged sandwiches made by Mainely Brews, although Gulak emphasized that the market's focus will be on its fresh food and locally-made crafts. "We don't want to compete detrimentally with close-by vendors," he said.
Still, with a successful opening, Barrels looks to keep adding more products to its inventory. Right now, the market sells a variety of fresh produce, local meats, organic granola, freshly baked breads, baking mixes, coffee, tea and other locally-produced or organic foods, to name a few.
In the winter, Gulak plans to start a "long-distance local" program, where small organic farms from outside Maine can sell their food at the market.
"The response has been amazing," he said. "The community is very invested and very interested and feedback continues to be very positive from all angles."
Gulak also noted that there has been a lot of interest from Colby students looking to volunteer at the market, and although they're "still figuring out how to manage volunteers"--the current staff is just two full-time workers and two part-time--anyone interested in helping out will be involved soon enough.
"That's what I love," he added, "is that everyone gets it."