Lakeesha Sanders has had a hard time finding a moment of down time inside Dorchester Food Co-op, preparing food, stocking shelves with food and coolers with drinks, and helping out in customer service.
But the Dorchester resident says she wouldn’t want it any other way.
At long last, and with much anticipation, Boston’s only grocery store owned by employees and residents has opened.
Long lines stretched across the 6,000-square-foot food and pantry hub on opening day Saturday, with excitement bursting out of the doors.
“I appreciate people and their patience,” Sanders told the Herald. “We are still trying to learn, and of course, we are going to have hiccups. But seeing so many people, we were expected to open at 11, but people have been here since before then. This is fantastic.”
Dorchester Food Co-op is Jenny Silverman’s brainchild.
The longtime neighborhood resident caught the “crazy idea” for the co-op over a decade ago when she decided to pursue opening a grocery store that would improve access to healthy food, support local farms and bolster economic development in her diverse, multicultural neighborhood.
The community is cherishing the idea, with nearly 1,700 residents from all over the city signing on as members, paying a one-time $100 equity fee to buy one share of the co-op. The fees can either be covered all at once or over time through solidarity shares.
Shareholders will have benefits, including member-only specials, and as the store starts making profit, some of the funds will be distributed among its members.
“It is a new way to build our economy, in a whole different way,” Silverman said. “We are tired of large corporations that really don’t care about the people they serve, they only care about people who are shareholders.”
General Manager John Santos thanked community members for their patience. The store had been ready to open in June, he said, but delays in construction and city permitting pushed the opening back to Saturday.
“We hired to open the store in June. Folks gave their two-week notice. It was quite a process,” Santos said. “We are your market. We are a community-owned asset. The products that we carry in our store are products you’ve asked us to, that you need us to carry. … We are here for you.”
Sunflowers greet customers around the parking lot, and as they walk through the entrance, a floral section leads down to cases full of fresh seafood, meats and produce. A kitchen in the back prepares foods on sale at a cafe featuring a coffee and juice bar.
Customers are also able to take advantage of indoor and outdoor seating.
Resident Amanda Shalian stopped by the store on opening day with her husband and son. They have been looking forward to the store’s opening for 10 years, since they’ve moved to the neighborhood.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Shalian said of being a member-owner. “This is a great opportunity to meet lots of neighbors, to get to know each other, and to really make a contribution to the community.”