City Market/Onion River Co-op (Downtown)

The Onion River Co-op began as a buying club in 1971. Members met twice a month to divide up orders in their own homes. In 1972, the organization briefly occupied the "wedge" building on the corner of North Street and North Winooski Ave. The building served as offices for the organization and was also a community space... within the year however; the Co-op was forced to move. It was not until 1973 that the Co-op was incorporated, and moved to what would become the first storefront at 77 Archibald Street. Through the '70s and early '80s the membership and sales steadily increased.

By 1990, the Archibald storefront was busting at the seams, and the Co-op found a new home at 274 North Winooski Ave. Members showed support for the move by actually forming a human chain to move the lighter goods from one store to the other. By 1995, the Co-op voted to change the infrastructure of the organization, and go from a collective staff management to a management system with a general manager appointed by the board of directors.

By 1999, the annual sales had reached 4 million dollars, and the Co-op again faced the decision to move. This time, the Co-op struck agreement with the city of Burlington to become the downtown grocery store. While still stocking organic unprocessed foods for the membership, the organization expanded to include more conventional groceries, to meet the needs of the general downtown community.

By February 2002, City Market, the storefront operation owned by Onion River Co-op opened on South Winooski Avenue as a way to manifest its commitment to serving the community.

The Board of Directors in January 2007 issued a new End Policy, clarifying the mission of the Co-op.

The Onion River Co-op will be central to a thriving and healthy community, where:

  • Consumers have local access to progressive social, environmental and healthful choices;
  • Residents enjoy an enhanced quality of life;
  • The local food system is strengthened;
  • The cooperative model is supported; and our owners have a sense of pride in their cooperative.

The Co-op works to support its Global Ends by implementing a variety of community outreach projects. Our goal is to provide low-income consumers with access to progressive, social, and healthful choices through education and outreach and to specifically reduce childhood poverty in Burlington. Here are a few examples of the impact that City Market has on the Vermont economy and on the community as a whole.

  • City Market purchased a salad bar (a $5000 investment) for H.O. Wheeler School to facilitate bringing more healthy local foods to elementary school children.
  • Annually, we donate $10,000 and thousands of products to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.
  • Since June 2005, we've helped our customers donate $75,236 to the Food Shelf through register coupons.
  • Our on-staff Food Education Coordinator teaches healthy eating habits with locally-grown food to parents and children in Burlington schools.
  • Last year we distributed at no charge over 1,400 lunches to senior citizens throughout the Burlington area through our Senior Lunch program.
  • Last year, senior citizens saved $54,166 through our Senior Discount Program and disabled shoppers saved $33,403.
  • In the last three years, City Market has raised over $22,000 for COTS through our annual Holiday Tree Sale.
  • Each month, City Market offers health and nutrition classes free of charge.
  • City Market is committed to building a sustainable economy in Vermont and to strengthen the local food system:
  • 73% of the vendors we do business with are located in Vermont
  • 65 cents of every dollar in sales stays in Vermont.
  • We also offer store tours (free of charge) that highlight local products.

The Co-op has over 2,500 members who enjoy many benefits including Member Worker discounts, displaying artwork in our Member Artist Cafe Gallery, attending bi-annual Member Meetings, and saving money at over 60 Community Business Partners.

The Co-op recently launched the new Food for All Program, a 10% discount program (excluding wine and beer) for members who receive food stamps; women, infants and children (WIC), or disability assistance.