It only took about two weeks for the partners behind the Astoria Food Center to raise the $ 700,000 needed to complete a second-hand Sears Hometown Store purchase.
The partners, who hit a fundraising milestone on Sunday, plan to renovate a former equipment store on Marine Drive into a retail, processing, storage and distribution hub for local food producers. They hope to open in the fall.
The food center raises money through Steward, a commercial lender that raises money to cover borrowing costs from public investors who get back the principal and interest. Jared Gardner, owner of the Nehalem River Farm and a central partner in the project, said $ 700,000 would be paired with about $ 120,000 invested by the partners.
“That takes us through the down payment, and all permits, of historic reviews,” said Gardner. “We have some engineering costs. This gets us all the documents fully turned over to the city, so we can queue up for the next stage, which is the construction costs. “
Warren Neth, who markets Gardner’s farm and food center, said 164 people joined loans with minimum investments of $ 100 to over $ 20,000 by multiple contributors. Most of the support comes from people with money in savings who want to earn a higher interest rate than the goals they support, he said.
“It is a small level investor who bears the burden of investing, borrowing,” said Neth.
Gardner said partners hope to close the building in the coming weeks and take a break before releasing conceptual images of the food center and starting a second round of fundraising to build retail stores, cold storage and commercial kitchens.
The food center has attracted interest in part from the need for more local cold storage space.
North Coast Food Web runs a weekly market for local producers whose demand has soared during the coronavirus pandemic. Jessika Tantisook, executive director of food web, said the group is considering expanding to the Sears building because of synergies and the need for more cold storage.
Jeff Graham, executive chef at Fort George Brewery, buys beef and pork from Gardner. Graham wanted a local space to make and store items like charcuteries.
Gardner rented a cooler space in Portland, where he had to travel whenever Fort George or another client needed more of his product. The upcoming phase of the food center will include expanded cold storage in the basement of the building to meet demand. Gardner said the group wanted to start smaller and increase over time.
“It’s more responsible to build with precision than just swing it,” he said.
One of the partners in the food hub is Tre-Fin Day Boat Seafood from Ilwaco, Washington. The hyperlocal capture processor raised $ 260,000 via Steward for a new processing room. Gardner said he saw the power in the model, giving the community the ability to invest and see the financial benefits of projects.
“I personally want my customers to be invested in, and investors to become customers,” said Gardner. “Because that’s what keeps money circling in our community. If we’re going to pay interest to someone, I want to pay a community that supports what we do. “
People interested in supporting the Astoria Food Hub can register at astoriafoodhub.com to be part of a future fundraiser.