How our community re-financed our grocery co-op

December 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm 6 comments

By Dee Reid

Mary DeMare, Herman Greene, Carol Hewitt, Paul Finkel and Bob Armantrout bringing it home and keeping it local.

They say, “It takes a village…” In this case it took 16 local-food friends.

It all started when Chatham Marketplace had a financial obligation looming. The Pittsboro-based co-op grocery was facing a $300k balloon payment on its start-up loan.  The note would come due in about a year. The bank might be willing to re-finance, but there was no guarantee about that, or whether the Marketplace would get the same terms.

Then Carol Hewitt recalled a great idea that came up a few months earlier when she was first co-founding Slow Money NC, the Pittsboro-based initiative that facilitates peer-to-peer community-based loans. Chatham Marketplace Finance Committee member Paul Finkel had suggested re-financing the co-op’s loan through individual lenders in the community.

Slow Money wasn’t ready to take on something that big last spring, Carol said.  But by fall, Slow Money had already facilitated more than a dozen micro-loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs. Maybe they could tackle the Chatham Marketplace loan after all.

Carol and Slow Money co-founder Lyle Estill began crunching the numbers. They would need to find 16 individuals willing to loan $25k each at a 4.5% interest rate. Each lender would receive equal monthly payments over an eight-year period, and the loan would then be retired.

Slow Money NC would help them aggregate their funds into one pool that could be managed centrally. That’s when Bringing It Home Chatham LLC was formed.

It didn’t take all that long to line up 16 lenders, Carol said. The folks who had helped start the Marketplace– Tami Schwerin, Melissa Frye and Katherine Conroy– met and suggested names. It was a community effort and one-by-one people agreed to participate. The loan was attractive to them for several reasons:  They believed in putting their money to work in the community. Many of them had already made micro-loans through Slow Money NC and they felt confident their funds would be repaid.

They knew the risks associated with supporting a small local business, Carol said, but they would rather see their money working on Main Street than riding the recession roller coaster on Wall Street. And, they would be getting a better return on the Marketplace loan than they would from a savings account or CD.

The loan was also a very good deal for Chatham Marketplace. It locked in a much lower interest rate, reducing the grocery’s monthly payment by 1/3. That means a savings of about $2500 a month – no small change for any food enterprise in these times.

“Now Chatham Marketplace is locally financed by people in the community who care deeply about its success,” Carol said. “That means we will do whatever we can to help the Marketplace succeed.”

“Bringing It Home Chatham is one of the first projects of its kind in the US,” Carol added. “It’s just the beginning of finding new and better ways to keep local food growing here in Chatham County and beyond.”

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Entry filed under: Carol Peppe Hewitt, Lyle Estill, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Whole Food/ Locavore Eateries. Tags: , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. run4joy59  |  December 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Great example of what we all can do to support local businesses. If we don’t do things like this, all we’ll end up with are the WalMarts of the world…

    Reply
  • 2. love4local  |  December 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I am deeply inspired by what Slow Money North Carolina is accomplishing in their local communities. They are an excellent example of the power and effectiveness of the Slow Money Movement. Kudos!!!

    Reply
    • 3. Sustainable Grub  |  December 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Agreed. Our Slow Money folks work fast!

      Reply
  • […] article was reposted from Sustainable Grub, written by Dee […]

    Reply
  • 5. Rebecca T.  |  January 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Great, inspiring story! I am interested in starting something similar in my community, pooling loan funds to help beginning and limited-resource farmers. Can you share any details or references for how you created the aggregated loan pool? Do you hold that money in a bank? Tell me more about the LLC if you can…

    Reply
    • 6. Sustainable Grub  |  January 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Rebecca,

      All good questions. for answers, I recommend that you contact Carol Hewitt at Slow Money NC at info@slowmoneync.org, or at 919 six five six 8889.

      Reply

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