Cobargo a small village with big ideas

MEMBERS of a Cobargo artists co-operative have joined together with the ambitious aim raising half a million dollars to purchase the town’s supermarket and turn it into a community space.
Nanjing Night Net

The town has been facing the closure of its only grocery store for some time, with owners Horst and Margaret Lohse desperate to retire, but unable to sell the business.

Suzy McKinnon of the Creative Workers and Producers of Cobargo, also known as the Cobargo Creators, said their group wants to not only save the town’s supermarket, but foster community development and economic health in the village.

“A couple of months ago we had a meeting to address the issue of us running out of space at our current spot, The Black Wattle Gallery,” Ms McKinnon said.

“One of the members, Rebecca Blunden, thought we could access part of the supermarket as a youth-orientated space and from that came the thought of actually purchasing the supermarket outright.

“Horst and Margaret are beyond retirement age and it’s been on the market for four years, they deserve a break.

“For us it’s the only realistic option space-wise, but it’s also a fabulous two for one because the town would still have a supermarket and out the back is this great spot which would work perfectly for us as a community spot.”

Ms McKinnon acknowledged the supermarket space would have to be managed differently from the Cobargo Creators’ current business, The Blackwattle Gallery, which runs entirely on volunteers drawn from the group’s 77 artistic members.

With this in mind a meeting was called on Saturday at the supermarket for people interested in forming a separate co-operative to manage the supermarket.

“It was a great meeting, we had 12 very keen people and 10 apologies,” said Ms McKinnon.

“In all the community projects I’ve been involved in this is the most enthusiastic response I’ve seen to getting something off the ground, which is very inspiring.

“There were lots of people with good ideas, and for a project that hasn’t really been publicised outside of a few flyers posted around Cobargo I’m really pleased with the response.

“We now have three people volunteering to do the paperwork that you need to start a co-operative, and Horst and Margaret are letting us use a small part of the supermarket to set up an area where we will be able to show people what our ideas are and information for fundraising.”

Ms McKinnon said the goal of the newly formed co-operative would be to buy the supermarket outright by early next year, but with a $500,000 price tag this will be no small feat.

“People instantly go, ‘oh my goodness’ when you say half a million dollars, but when you break that down to 500 people raising $1000 each across Australia it’s a doable amount of money.

“We’d be looking at crowd funding [using the internet to attract funding from other like-minded community groups] which is the way these days, using social media to get people who are creatively minded to support initiatives that will keep communities healthy and strong.”

Current owner Mr Lohse is receptive to the idea, saying, “if it works, great”.

“When they put the money on the table, I can finally walk out because for my wife and I, our retirement is a long time overdue, but I can’t just let the town down.”

Mr Lohse said it’s important to keep independent stores running in small communities and worries about what will happen to the town if he is forced to close his doors.

“If the co-operative or somebody else doesn’t buy, I think I only have two years left in me to run it, perhaps until they open this Woolworths they say is happening in Bermagui.”

Ms McKinnon and the members of Cobargo Creators are excited about making the supermarket a community enterprise and are even getting bumper stickers printed up to support this and the ongoing development of Cobargo.

“The stickers will says Small Village, Big Community, because that’s what this is – a big community, full of support and enthusiasm,” said Ms McKinnon.

Members of the Cobargo Creators (from left) Rebecca Blunden, Suzy McKinnon, Veronica Abbott and Mel Britton, with current owners of the Cobargo supermarket (centre) Horst and Margaret Lohse.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Posted by at 16/05/2018
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