ORANGE — Sarah Mildren really wanted to have ice cream served at the Quabbin Harvest co-op.
She wanted to serve the community so much, she got schooled on how to scoop.
Mildren, the co-op’s team leader, went to Northfield Creamie and learned how to properly scoop and serve ice cream, she said while demonstrating the finesse-filled technique.
Though the North Main Street co-op has been serving customers ice cream all summer long, Quabbin Harvest unveiled its full food menu Thursday evening at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
It’s been years in the works since the co-op first formed in 2009. It moved to its current location in 2014.
“I’m hoping to get more people in here to check it out,” Mildren said. “It’s not just about the good service. It’s about the community. It’s about food access. It’s about supporting the local economy and this just gives us another avenue to do that.”
Recently, Mildren and the co-op’s board chairwoman Cathy Stanton have been working with the town to get the store up to code to both prep and serve food.
The Quabbin Harvest now serves not only ice cream from Bart’s and Snow’s, but healthy salads and sandwiches. There will always be a meat, vegetarian and vegan option and the food will typically be locally sourced and seasonal.
The food is made fresh every morning by staff and then prepped to go in the fridge so people can grab lunch on the go.
“Almost everyday there would be people like, ‘You should serve sandwiches,’” Mildren said, about her time at the co-op since January.
Items include classics like a turkey and Swiss sandwich but also options like a peach and pastrami sandwich. On the veggie side, there is a rainbow hummus wrap and veggie rolls, wrapped in collard greens. There are salads like a blueberry, broccoli, spinach salad and the Nina’s Classic, named by Nina Wellen, one of the founding members of the co-op.
“One of our big goals for the co-op was to have local food and affordable food,” Wellen said. “We also wanted to have food that is healthy and that people can just come and buy.”
The market has worked with Green Fields Market, the Greenfield co-op, on planning and strategy, Stanton said.
Despite the lack of foot traffic and population density compared to a place like Greenfield or Brattleboro, Vt., where a supermarket-sized co-op anchors the downtown, Stanton explained that just being able to serve people in the community food for lunch can have a big effect on the area.
“There’s a huge amount of community investment here” in the North Quabbin, Stanton said. “I think that’s what the co-op is. This can be a place that we build that around.”
Executive Director of the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce Mark Wright noted the importance of additional food options for people in the downtown.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but if you want something like this or a restaurant to be successful, you really want to have four or five them,” Wright said. Anything like this that opens up is always improvement.”
Naturally, there was also discussion of how this could become another good place for workers on the set of “Castle Rock,” the new TV Hulu series coming to town, to eat when on break.
“If we can be savvy about the short-term impact
of the TV series that would be a win-win,” Stanton said.
And as dozens of people flowed through the shop Thursday, some there for the first time and others longtime existing members, they shuffled through the store, tried fresh, in-season food, shared thoughts about the recipes and sampled ice creams. Then some customers went along and shopped at the store for items they might need.
If all goes well, the co-op hopes this can rally up more business, and possibly get to the point where it could apply for permits to cook food and offer a hot menu.
“We’d love to do that,” Stanton said. “That’s sort of a dream for us longer-term.”
You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:
413-772-0261, ext. 264