As with many new wave co-ops, Franklin Community Co-op was influenced in its early years by the social and cultural forces of the 1960s and 1970s. In western Massachusetts, a group of people interested in obtaining foods without pesticides and with minimum processing began researching alternatives. Begun as a buying club, the Montague Food Co-op was the first incarnation of Franklin Community Co-op.
The co-op opened a storefront location in Turners Falls in 1977. The original store was run completely by volunteer members, who received a discount on purchases in exchange for their work. Eventually, with funds from a local VISTA program, the co-op hired a manager to coordinate activities at the store and keep it running smoothly. It was during this time that the co-op formally incorporated as the Franklin Community Co-op.
After much debate, membership approved relocation to a larger store on Chapman Street in Greenfield in 1987. Many members contributed hundreds of hours to build shelving, install coolers and fixtures, and move records, inventory and equipment. Once the doors opened in Greenfield, the co-op’s sales increased by 70% almost immediately. Chapman Street c.1989.
As the Greenfield store thrived, a membership survey established that there was interest in a larger co-op with a wider product line. After several attempts to lease locations, the co-op purchased a large empty building on Main Street, recently vacated by a J.C. Penney store. Community support for the co-op’s expansion was widespread; many recognized the value of having a thriving business take over empty storefront space on Main Street. The co-op opened for business at 144 Main Street on November 17, 1993, under the operating name Green Fields Market. A bakery and a deli were new additions to the co-op.
Membership and sales continued to grow and the Main Street location went through multiple renovations. In August 2007, recognizing that many co-op members live in the hill towns west of Greenfield, the co-op purchased McCusker’s Market, an existing natural food store in nearby Shelburne Falls, becoming a two-store co-op.