In June 2003, Jude Marentette donated her personal business, a Horizon Distributor’s buying club, to become the first seed of the Co-op. It started in a small back room of the restaurant owned by Scott Mercs, and several people volunteered their time to serve on the Board, build shelves, and work at the growing store. Several individuals either loaned money or bought extra shares to help pay for infrastructure and equipment costs ― including using their personal credit cards to pay for stock. In July 2004, the Co-op formally incorporated under the BC Co-operative Act. By the end of that year, Scott Mercs had agreed to let the Co-op take over half of the space occupied by the restaurant, and rapid development continued.
The Co-op experienced tremendous growth and passed $1M in sales by the end of 2007. The store needed more space and more equipment, so the Co-op added a four-door display freezer as well as a 20-foot produce cooler and built a large addition to the front of the building. In late 2010, the Sunset Restaurant had to shut down because the property’s waste-water system failed, and the Co-op arranged to acquire the restaurant’s equipment and space. With help from member loans and a grant from the Co-operative Development Institute, a cafe opened in the summer of 2011 but was not financially sustainable. In the spring of 2012, the Co-op started a bakery that constituted the basis of a new cafe opened during that summer, and that bakery/cafe combination continues successfully to this day.
Almost from the beginning, the Co-op had been looking for a way to purchase the property that Scott Mercs had been renting from School District 72. This 2.8 acre parcel lies in the heart of Mansons Landing and should be owned by the community. Formal negotiations began in 2010, and it took countless hours for the Co-op, the School District, and the Province of BC to come up with a purchase agreement. Early in 2014, the Co-op began a fund-raising campaign for the land purchase, which garnered $76,000 in donations from community members. Late in 2014, the Co-op arranged for a $250,000 mortgage from Vancity to complete the land purchase, build a new waste-water system, and invest in several other capital improvements. On March 23, 2015, the property was transferred and the infrastructure improvements were completed by the end of the year.
Today both the store and cafe continue to thrive and grow.