Shortly after moving into the Meg Perry Center three years ago, the Portland Food Co-op realized it had already outgrown this location. It needed more space in which to distribute the produce its members had ordered. The Co-op was growing quickly in other ways as well. It had begun as a buying club and evolved into a co-op. So, the space committee began a search for the right spot – near its members and with minimal overhead costs – such as rent.
Late last month, the non-profit announced it had found the location that met all of its requirements. By the end of this year, it expects to move into 58 Hampshire Street at the bottom of the Hill. (Formerly, this red painted building at the corner of Hampshire and Federal Streets was part of a two building package at 60 Hampshire Street. A few years ago, the two buildings were separated and sold separately.) The former Tallly’s which is 58 Hampshire Street was a wholesale business. It has 4,700 sq. ft. Better yet it comes rent free. Local philanthropist, S. David Sussman,has given a rent-free, five-year lease and $40,000 deal to the group. David Trafton, a member of the space committee, said there are many drawings around of what the building might look like some day, but nothing is finalized.
The co-op plans on some day expanding to sell produce to the public and not just its members. But there is no timeline for that yet. “We’d have to hire a manager for that,” said Trafton. The Co-op has the potential to give members access to more products than is stocked in our local grocery stores. The co-op buys more local produce from Crown of Maine than does Whole Foods, Trafton added. “Our goal is to sell good food at lower prices,” he said.
Ronald Taliento, 59, said his family owned and ran Tally’s Wholesale Tobacco & Candy Co. there for about 60 years. It was a family business run mostly by his uncles. Coco, one of his uncles, was the first to open a chain of grocery stores in Portland. The first store of the three was a Federal Grocery Store located on Federal Street where Pine Tree Legal is located. The stores sold fresh produce and meat and catered to families.
Taliento grew up on North Street on the Hill. It was a great place to grow up he said recently over the telephone. We played lots of sports. “We were a tight knit group of kids and we remain close to this day,” he said. “We still get together every year to play golf. I have fantastic memories.”
For more information on the Portland Food Co-op, please visit www.portlandfoodcoop.org