BREMERTON — The Kitsap Community Food Co-Op will finally have a home to call its own.
After operating for about eight months as a pop-up market inside the Sweet & Smokey Diner, the co-op is moving next door to 421 Park Avenue, the former home of Park Avenue Pets.
“We’re very, very excited,” said Erin Falcone, the co-op president. “It’s going to be a ton of work and an intense next few months, but it’s so nice to have that clear path forward to our own store.”
The food co-op will be closed briefly; it closed up shop in the diner on July 15 and is expected to partially reopen later this summer, possibly mid-August. The pop-up market will be twice the size of its space at Sweet & Smokey and partitioned off while renovations continue on the rest of the interior. A capital campaign will then be undertaken for a full build-out of the 1,300-square foot space.
The move toward a full-service store has been a long journey. The co-op was incorporated 10 years ago but struggled to get off the ground under the guidance of its national organization. The drive toward opening a huge 10,000-square-foot big-box store made fundraising difficult, especially when the need was more concentrated in downtown Bremerton, which qualified as an urban food desert — meaning a certain percentage of people lived more than one mile from a grocery store.
Taking inspiration from a co-op on Orcas Island, they opened up their spot at Sweet & Smokey, and things grew quickly from there.
“We finally had a face and a place to explain to people how we got to where we’re going,” Falcone said. “Starting small can work.”
When the new space opens, it will feature a wider selection of dry goods and bulk items, and there will be space for commercial-grade refrigeration units to stock produce and frozen goods.
In the meantime, the co-op is looking for donors and volunteers to help make fresh, affordable, healthy food in downtown Bremerton a reality.
“Every little investment makes a difference toward rebuilding this local food system,” Falcone said.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.