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Chelsea Community Charting Vision for a Community Store

2018-04-26

As seen in the Randolph Herald: https://www.ourherald.com/articles/chelsea-community-charting-vision-for...

On Saturday, April 21, over 60 people came together in Chelsea to chart a vision for the future of a community store and gathering place. Together, participants built a task force with the goal of advancing this concept to a reality in partnership with the Chelsea community.

The meeting was facilitated by the Vermont Council on Rural Development in partnership with the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation. VCRD and GMEDC were invited to facilitate this community conversation by town leadership, volunteers, and the local community non-profit First Branch Community Collaborative, which has engaged the community in conversation over the past several months through well-attended Saturday potlucks.

In those conversations, it became clear that there was interest and energy in town for some model of a community store as a community center point, gathering space, and local market for residents in Chelsea and beyond.

The goal of the April 21 meeting was to bring the community together to discuss challenges and opportunities, vision, and action ideas to inform next steps. Chelsea Planning Commission Chair Dickson Corbett and GMEDC Executive Director Bob Haynes kicked off the meeting with some history and background around the interest in and possibility of a community store in town.

Attendees then expressed an array of ideas and vision points on the structure of a community store, from a community-owned and supported business to a cooperative or an entrepreneurial opportunity. Participants also shared several functions a store could serve, from a place to purchase fresh produce, local meat, and beer and wine; to a deli with sandwiches and other lunch options, and a place with seating to gather with neighbors and friends locally and serve visitors to the community.

One key theme of the discussion was the sense that a new community store effort should not get in the way of key existing assets in town, such as the beloved Will’s Store and the local farmers market, or upcoming efforts such as new offerings that may come from new ownership of the former Pizza House in town. Participants recognized the need to celebrate the leadership of existing businesses in this arena, while finding ways to complement the market and fill gaps as needed and desired by the broad community.

The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing rural Vermont communities.

Executive Director Paul Costello noted, “At VCRD we are excited about the leadership of Chelsea residents who are lining up to develop a community gathering place with multiple functions that might include fresh foods, a café, meats, and other provisions for the community.”

The next step in this discussion will take place on Tuesday, May 22 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Chelsea Town Hall. At that meeting, a newly signed-up task force of local volunteers will meet to frame out action plans and work with a resource team of federal, state, business, and non-profit experts to identify next steps and resources that can help the group succeed.

To join the working group and action planning, attend the meeting on May 22 or contact Jenna Koloski at VCRD to sign up or for more information at 802-225-6091 or jenna@vtrural.org. All are welcome to get involved in next steps!