Arthurdale Heritage opens co-op general store - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Arthurdale Heritage opens co-op general store

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Cynthia McCloud / The State Journal Cynthia McCloud / The State Journal
Arthurdale Heritage Inc. opened a store Sept. 1 similar to the co-op that operated in the New Deal community in the 1930s. It’s housed in the former Esso gas station. Manager C. Lee Martinec pets her dog, Awesome Girl. Arthurdale Heritage Inc. opened a store Sept. 1 similar to the co-op that operated in the New Deal community in the 1930s. It’s housed in the former Esso gas station. Manager C. Lee Martinec pets her dog, Awesome Girl.
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The Arthurdale Cooperative Store advertised in the May 14, 1937 “Arthurdale Builder” newspaper: two pounds of ground beef cost 31 cents, a 25-pound bag of sugar was $1.27 and a pound of extra-fancy peanut butter cost 19 cents.

The store also sold work clothing and shoes to the residents of Arthurdale, the first of Roosevelt's 100 New Deal planned subsistence homestead communities founded to improve the quality of life of impoverished Americans.

Later it became a sort of convenience store, said Jeanne Goodman, executive director of Arthurdale Heritage Inc., the nonprofit organization charged with preserving and promoting the properties.

A co-op store is once again operating in Arthurdale — in a building that originally housed an Esso gas station.

The shop is decorated with some historic pieces, including a display of Pharis Roadgripper Tires. Lined up in a case are cans that held pipe tobacco and snuff and boxes of candy no one younger than a Baby Boomer has ever heard of: “Hollywoods 5 cents” and “Pecan Chills 3 cents.”

Located on W.Va. Route 92 in Arthurdale, the co-op is open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

The manager of the co-op that opened for business Sept. 1 is C. Lee Martinec, Ph.D., former general manager of Mountain People's Market Co-op in Morgantown. The retired university professor is also a clinical exercise physiologist and natural lifestyle practitioner.

“Arthurdale Heritage is excited about Lee's interest in working with us to run and eventually rebuild the store,” Goodman said. “We can see where it can grow to help us become more stable and self-supporting. At the same time, it will provide a central market for local farmers and others which can increase economic growth in the area.

“Ken Burns' ‘The Roosevelts' has already brought more people here who are interested in finding out about Eleanor Roosevelt's role in and plans for Arthurdale,” she said “In many ways, we are continuing to follow those plans and the Cooperative Store is a vital part of them. This looks like it is going to be a big success for us and in a year or two help support us in a major way.”

As a business operated by Arthurdale Heritage, the store doesn't run like the kind of co-op where members share profits along with the workload. It doesn't have a separate board of directors or by-laws.

Memberships cost $25 per household per year.

“You don't have to be a member to shop here,” Martinec said. “But if you buy in bulk — 5 pounds or more of anything — you get 10 percent off.”

Members can order without placing a deposit; nonmembers have to pay up front.

“We hope to be more like a general store,” Martinec said. “We want to have a lunch counter eventually.”

The co-op sells bulk grain, spring wheat and buckwheat flour; spices, herbs and salt; prunes, raisins and banana chips; maple nut granola; texturized vegetable protein, a meat substitute; fair trade coffees and teas; flax and fish oils; and personal care and household goods.

Ron Stemple from Valley Farm in Aurora makes 1,400 gallons of maple syrup a year in his sugaring business. He has committed to sell it through no other retail location than the co-op. The store stocks grass-fed beef from Barb and Dave Miller's Mountain Diamond Longhorn Ranch near Tunnelton, pork sausage from Art's Commercial & Custom Meat in Tunnelton, Amish butter made from 100 percent Jersey milk in Hillsboro, local eggs and locally grown fresh vegetables.

“I bought things I would normally have to drive farther to get,” said Arthurdale resident Sarah Barnes, a former AHI board president. “I love that it is here now. Plus, I can put in orders for things for the next time.

“Best of all, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend morning to pick any of these items up.”

So far the shop has 10 local suppliers and four non-local sources. Some items, such as the coffee and coconut oil, come from other co-ops.

“We can special order almost anything,” Barnes said.

Eventually, the co-op will offer demonstrations and classes on topics such as living with celiac disease. Currently, there's a reference library in one corner.

“We're trying to support local people as much as possible,” Martinec said. “We need more members to keep going.”

To be added to the co-op list, email ahi@arthurdaleheritage.org or call 304-864-3959.

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