MARLBORO -- The bid by a volunteer group to purchase and develop the former Sweetie's store on Route 9 has fallen through, and the group is trying to determine if it will move ahead with another location for a community-owned and run co-op.
The Marlboro Community Store Working Group had a purchase and sale agreement with James St. Jean, owner of the property.
The group has been working for about a year-and-a-half to raise enough money to buy the former Sweetie's general store, and also had received a number of extensions on the original purchase and sale agreement.
A few weeks ago St. Jean set a deadline of June 13 for the group to come up with the money, and the group met last week to finally concede that their plan to open a community run co-op would probably not happen at the store on Route 9.
"The dream is still alive, and many of us want to keep looking for a place to start a co-op," said Dan MacArthur who has been active with the group from the start. "But if it happens it probably won't happen at Sweetie's."
MacArthur said the group was able to raise about $225,000 in pledges, but there were a number of stumbling blocks in the way that prevented them from moving further along in their fundraising efforts.
Since the store closed in September 2012 ownership of the property was in question as the former owner was foreclosed on and St. Jean was trying to take over ownership.
MacArthur said the uncertainty over the ownership delayed their fundraising efforts.
St. Jean finally purchased the property at auction in December 2013, but then MacArthur said there were questions over a gasoline storage tank on the property.
All of those issues prevented the group from aggressively raising the money, MacArthur said, and while there was enthusiasm among the dozen of so members of the Marlboro Community Store Working Group, and other members of the Marlboro community, the group held a meeting last week and decided that for now they would stop raising money and plot their next move.
"It was hard to go to donors when there were so many questions," he said. "After the deadline came and went we realized there was not enough money and so the purchase and sale agreement is null and void."
At the meeting MacArthur said the group talked about its next move.
He said most of the members want to keep the group together and look for another location for a community run store, but they are going to take the summer off and possibly come back together in the fall.
"We thought the best thing to do right now is take some time off, breathe deeply, and then come back together at a later date," said MacArthur. "This was in no way a failure. We have a great group, we learned a lot, and we are going to keep moving on. We just don't know where it is going to go from here."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.