"I'm not a hippie. I'm not from that generation," Coates said. "One of the reasons I'm interested in this is because Mom's is too expensive."

Coates noted that the other stores have a large selection of organic bath products, for example, that he doesn't use.

"We don't really want to focus on that kind of stuff," said Coates, who noted having people with different skill sets invest time in the co-op is important to its success. "It's more about what you eat and the fresh food you can get.

"I'm interested in that type of quality being brought to the community."


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The interest in the co-op isn't surprising to Thomas.

"It's been kind of a quiet rumbling in the community for a while," Thomas said. "It's a passion of mine and I'd love to see it happen."

A co-op wasn't always Thomas' plan.

Initially, she wanted to try to open a retail store.

She soon realized, she said, that she didn't have the right attitude to run a business for profit.

"When you're in a profit-making mode, there's a lot of guardedness. You have to protect your brand and your idea," Thomas said. "It honestly made me feel uncomfortable."

Thomas, who married her husband, Alex, 11 years ago, began researching and buying natural and organic products "almost as an emergency."

She said her oldest son, Alex Jr., 10, has autism, and she uses a special diet of organic foods and supplements to help him cope.

Thomas started easing into the organic foods diet about 10 years ago, she said, by feeding Alex Jr. jarred organic baby food.

Her son, Brandon, 7, is deaf and blind as a result of having CHARGE syndrome.

According to the Charge Syndrome Foundation website, the name is an acronym developed in 1981 that refers to a cluster of birth defects seen in one in 10,000 children.

The symptoms, according to the website, consist of fissures of the eye, heart defects, an absence of the posterior openings of the nasal cavity, genital or urinary abnormalities and ear abnormalities or deafness.

Thomas said Brandon could not eat solid food until he was 4, so she made high-calorie shakes using organic foods that could be fed through his feeding tube.

The amount of organic foods in the Thomas family's diet has gradually increased over the past 10 years.

Now, 80 percent of the food that Shannon, Alex, Alex Jr., Brandon, Hannah, 4, and Lillian, 7 months, consume is "as organic as I could get," Shannon said.

Thomas even makes baby food for Lillian from organic produce.

"Once you know something, you can't unknow it," Thomas said of her choice to feed her family natural and organic foods.

"And once you know something is better for your family, it's very difficult to go back doing what you've always done."

Thomas doesn't plan to go back.

She said she hopes the Aug. 4 meeting at the Catonsville library will attract enough community members who are willing to support the co-op.

"I think we're going to need 100 members to get this off the ground," Thomas said.

For information about the meeting, go to http://www.facebook.com/CatonsvilleCooperativeMarket.