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Old North Grocery Co-Op In Need Of Volunteers For Store's Survival

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Erin Williams
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After only two years of doing business in north St. Louis, the grocery store known as the Old North Grocery Co-Op may soon close down.

Store manager Jill Whitmann says re-vamping the co-op’s business model to rely primarily on volunteers will help shore up more funds before the end of May, when the budget will tighten.

Whitmann also says that the store’s noon to 7 p.m. weekday hours aren’t ideal for the working-class customers in the neighborhood. She says these issues should have been taken into account two years ago.

“There was a lot of naive optimism put into the co-op at the start and we’re following up with the repercussions of that now,” she says. “Food buying has gone way down, but it will pick back up again once sales rise once we’ve expanded store hours. It’s this constant balancing act.”

The paid staff will be phased out at the end of the month, and store manager Jill Whitman says her salary may run out in May. The store will hold a volunteer training session on March 26 in order to get more involved.

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Credit Erin Williams
Store manager Jill Whitmann works behind the register. The co-op will hold a volunteer training session March 26.

Whitmann says it’s not just a store, it’s an asset  to the community – and she wants more people to realize that.

“We want to be able to better serve the community and getting volunteers in, more bodies part of this and owning this – emotionally owning this establishment will enable us to do it even better,” she says.

The store is open daily from noon to 7 p.m. Monday – Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Whitmann says if volunteers can be found, they’ll expand those hours to reach more customers.

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