70 South Street, Blue Hill, Maine
Your Community-Owned Grocery Store


Mon-Sat 8am – 8pm & Sun 8am – 6pm

Winter, 1974
First Order
The Co-op is Born

The Co-op’s roots began in the winter of 1974. A handful of people were interested in starting a buying club to bring organic vegetables to the Blue Hill peninsula at a time when they were unavailable. After some deliveries of perishable produce items began to arrive in the area, a bulk grain order was added to the offerings. These early efforts took a lot of organizing because each item that was purchased came in a 50lb bag, which then needed to be divided amongst members. However, the early membership reveled in the opportunity to spend the many hours together working towards the common cause of good food.

First 100 Owners
More Members, More Benefit

In time, this small and loosely organized group of pioneers realized that they could secure higher quality food at better prices if the burden of the work could be shared among more members. Word spread throughout the community and in just over a year, the Co-op’s membership reached 100.

In these early stages, people drove empty rented trucks as far afield as Boston and then drove back with them filled with grains and fresh produce. The trucks were then unloaded at various peoples' houses. Unloading spots changed from month to month, but one location was a residence that is now the Barncastle restaurant and, for a time, the Co-op operated out of the barn located behind 50 Main Street.

Monthly Deliveries
The North Blue Hill Grange

By 1977, there were monthly deliveries to the North Blue Hill Grange (now the Halcyon Grange).

February, 1979
Articles of Incorporation
It's Official

“Articles of Incorporation” were signed in February of 1979 offering more structure to the Co-op’s inner workings.

The 1980s
Two Co-ops
North and South Side Co-ops

By the early 1980s, there were so many families involved in the Co-op that it became necessary to split into two groups. A group on the north side of Blue Hill continued to use the North Blue Hill Grange for deliveries, and members who lived on the south side of Blue Hill operated out of what is now the Sedgwick Redemption Center. A produce order would be delivered once a month and a grain order was made less frequently.

Eventually, the two groups merged once again. The Co-op began to experiment with buying more than its members wanted to purchase. The excess was then sold to whoever wanted it. The Co-op also expanded its offerings, bringing in organic dairy products, smoked meats, seafood and bread. The membership was further invigorated by their success in pushing suppliers to order more organic foods from far-flung communities in the rural areas of Maine.

Our First Paid Manager & Cash Register
The Sedgwick Years

For several years, the Co-op rented a space that had once served as a schoolhouse in Sedgwick. In 1991, the first paid manager was hired and the store purchased its first cash register. However, the store remained a bare bones operation. A variety of donated freezers and refrigerators were put into use, and volunteers installed shelving to display food for sale to its customers.

The store was open several days a week, although lack of funding kept the store from becoming very well stocked and hours were erratic. In 1992, a rent reduction from $500 to $400 a month was a great relief.

Even with these difficulties, membership swelled to over a thousand and the Co-op became a location for a farmers’ market. The first Co-op newsletter was sent out while the Co-op was located in Sedgwick.

Spring, 1993
The Move to Blue Hill
4 Ellsworth Road Became our Home

Although more and more families were using the Co-op, it was becoming apparent to many that the store was not very conveniently located. Often, people would come far out of their way to shop, but the volunteer staffing scheduled for that day would fail to show. There was a division among its members about whether the Co-op should remain a buying club or open a storefront.

After many heated conversations, the decision was made to move the Co-op into a storefront. A small but suitable rental was found in downtown Blue Hill, at the base of Greens Hill and the lease was signed in the spring of 1993. At that point, the store only occupied a small portion of the current building footprint. In its new space, the Co-op increased the number and regularity of its hours, but the offerings were still quite slim. Despite this, the Co-op’s new store thrived and was soon ready to take over one of the other adjacent rental spaces.

The First Expansion
More Space & a Bakery

In 1995, the store underwent the first of several expansions. With many helping hands, a center stairwell was relocated and walk-in coolers were installed. Pain de Famille, a local bakery, subleased a portion of the store, drawing even more customers. Although it was crowded in this space, the Co-op continued to flourish, serving as a meeting place for residents and meeting their needs for healthy, local, organic and whole foods.

First Credit Card Machine
Change is Hard

In 1999, the first credit card machine was installed after a bit of a fuss from some long-standing members.

The Second Expansion
The Co-op Café is Born

When the local homeopath’s office to the far right of the building was vacated in 2001, a second expansion took place and the Co-op opened its own cafe. The Co-op also got its first computer this year.

Blue Hill Co-op Joined NCG

In 2006, the Co-op joined NCG, National Co-op Grocers (at the time NCGA). NCG is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. They help train, advise, support, and improve food co-ops around the country.

The First Mission Statement
The First Version of Our Mission StatementWas Approved

The Co-op Board announced the first Blue Hill Co-op mission statement in the spring newsletter. They took on the task of clearly stating the reason for the co-op's existence and place in the community. In other news, the store used printed shelf tags for the first time, freeing staff from the need to price each item individually. 

Also in 2007, the Co-op's website went live!

First Marketing Survey for Relocation
Should We Move?

Though there had been rumblings about the need to move to a newer, more spacious location, the first step in the process was a Marketing/Feasibility survey done in 2008 to assess the option of relocating.

Relocation Committee
A Relocation Committee Was Formed

A relocation committee was formed and began considering various sites as possible new locations for a future building. 

Also in 2010, the Co-op started using social media to reach our owners and customers.

Scouting for sites
Where to Go

The Relocation Committee began scouting for potential relocation sites. 

Design Work
A Picture is Forming

A site was nominally found and design work started to determine costs and feasibility. 

Land Purchased
It's Happening

In the autumn of 2014, the Co-op officially purchased 5.5 acres of unimproved land on South Street as a home for the relocation. 

Also in 2014, the Relocation Committee surveyed over 500 owners for opinions on the relocation and future direction of the Co-op.

Capital Campaign Started
Let's Fund It!

The Co-op began a capital campaign, raising money via the sale of preferred shares. Owners responded well! By the end, of the year we sold almost $160,000 in preferred shares.

Ground Breaking and Construction
It's All Coming Together

By January 2018, the Co-op's Capital Campaign had raised over $1 million. Fundraising and planning continued over the year and, in September, we broke ground at 70 South Street. By the end of the year, the foundation was finished!

Grand Opening
70 South Street Opens for Business

On July 27, Blue Hill Co-op opened the doors of 70 South Street for a soft opening, but there were some wrinkles that still needed ironing out. Once that happened, the Grand Opening Celebration was held on August 10! The solar array was installed that winter. 2019 ended with the Co-op’s new location exceeding all expectations for growth in capital and community, and it’s still growing to this day.

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