Shannon Thomas knew last year when she began setting up a cooperative market to sell organic fruits and vegetables in Catonsville that she would face challenges.
The Catonsville resident just expected to clear the hurdles faster.
Tired of driving 15 minutes to get to specialty grocery stores that had the organic and natural foods she preferred to serve her family, Thomas began a quest last year to form a Catonsville Cooperative Market that would offer those same products closer to home.
Co-ops are owned and supported by members who pay a fee and receive discounts for the products they purchase.
Twelve months later, the market has made progress, but most of it has been outside the public's view.
"When we first launched this, I thought we'd have money in the bank and a storefront by now," said Thomas, the president of the co-op. "Progress is slow and steady, which is probably better."
Since Thomas began hosting meetings last summer to gauge the community's interest in the project, she has seen several Catonsville businesses fold in the weak economy.
"Watching various small businesses in Catonsville who have done really well and who have had to close their doors has been a reality check," said Thomas, who moved to Catonsville four years ago.
"We're not going into this with a franchise name behind us," she said. "If a community doesn't support a co-op, it's not going to work."
Thomas said it typically takes a co-op between three and five years to open.
"With that context, I think we're doing great," she said. "I wish we could wave a magic wand and have the co-op open."
Thomas recently stepped back from her role with the co-op because she didn't have as much time as she continued to raise a family, which includes a husband of 12 years and four children, and attended classes to become a yoga instructor.
"People have picked up the slack for me," Thomas said. "It sounds like they're getting quite a bit done, whether I'm there or not."
Megan Davis, secretary of the co-op's steering committee, said establishing a co-op is too much work for one person.
She said there is enough to do to keep the committee, which also includes treasurer Debbie Rosier, a Catonsville resident, and directors Emily Souder and Mike Souder, both Arbutus residents, busy.
The co-op has 15 founding members, Davis said.
Preparing for the future
Some of the co-op's recent accomplishments include selecting a logo and completing its bylaws, Davis said.
The next steps involve having an attorney review the bylaws so that they can become a nonprofit organization, conducting a feasibility study and getting the word out.
"We want to let people know that yes, we're still here. Yes, we're still hoping to open a storefront," said Davis, who moved to Catonsville from Ellicott City two years ago.