A big food fight on Hertel Avenue is looming, with the Lexington Co-op's new store a month away from opening and Dash's Market a football field away and in the late stages of getting permission for a new store complex.
The cooperative has spent $5.5 million on an old drug store with a tattered parking lot and creating the new outpost on Hertel, twice the size of the Elmwood Avenue mother ship and eight times the size of the original co-op on Lexington Avenue.
It is energy efficient, with more parking and many more area food suppliers ready to move into the new facility when it opens July 12. Customer Ariel Nerson said she is looking forward to the store in her North Buffalo neighborhood.
"It's fantastic," Nerson said. "We regularly trek to Elmwood and deal with the parking situation to go to the co-op there, but really happy to have them here and be able to support a local business and lots of bringing jobs to Hertel which is amazing. We're happy to have them here."
Merchants are also happy. Heather Lucas from Bootleg Bucha is ready for new customers.
"It's fantastic," Lucas said. "Lexington Co-op was one of the first places that stocked our kombucha. They meant so much to us. We live in the Elmwood Village neighborhood. Our brewery is a few blocks away on Niagara Street. And for them to support us as a small local business was amazing. And we also use a lot of local products."
The co-op showed off the new facility to members Wednesday and had sample food and drink to show what will be for sale, as the local growing season heats up to provide fresh strawberries, hard cider and veggies.
Co-op President Alison Wilcox said it was a big risk to spend all that money.
"We're excited, but we are cautiously optimistic and we will be really on the board watching to make sure that we really hit those first indicators," Wilcox said. "It's a big risk we are all taking but we really did it because we knew that we already couldn't serve the amount of shoppers that want to shop at our Elmwood location. We know that we have strong support here and our own owners invested over $2 million into the expansion."
Lexington Co-op General Manager Tim Bartlett said there is enough market on Hertel for both Dash's and Lexington.