Nonprofit Marsh Cooperative will open grocery store in south St. Louis this weekend

Nonprofit organization Materializing and Activating Radical Social Habitus (MARSH) Cooperative is launching its own storefront grocery beginning this Saturday, July 24. Measuring just over 1,000 square feet and located at 6917 S. Broadway in the Carondelet neighborhood of South City, Marsh Grocery will offer a full range of accessibly priced grocery items, including organic produce. Prepared foods and baked goods produced on site in the worker-owned and -operated kitchen will also be available.

Co-founder Beth Neff was awarded a grant for this project from America’s Healthy Food Financing Intiative in March. The grant will help pay for the infrastructure of the storefront as well as worker compensation. Marsh was one of 20 grantees selected from a nationwide pool of 250 applicants.

Marsh plans to use the grant to support “people who will democratically and collaboratively make decisions, manage the store and make the connections between the food insecurity issues in the neighborhood and what a natural food grocery can be,” Neff said. “We are really excited about the model that this represents as a substitute for the top-down, working labor environment.”

A brick-and-mortar store was always a part of Neff and her colleagues’ vision for Marsh to provide a venue for in-person encounters and building relationships with community members. However, the pandemic’s arrival last March necessitated that the co-op shift focus and build out their online catalog more quickly than they’d initially planned. An outdoor pop-up market on Fridays was another Covid-era adaptation. Now that the physical store is finally opening, the online catalog will remain an ordering option, while pop-up markets will be a more sporadic, event-based offering, Neff confirmed.

“A high percentage of our members are subsidized through neighborhood organizations and other sources, and very few of those people have ever shopped at the co-op,” Neff said. “Part of the motivation of the grant was to open something that is a more familiar shopping experience for most people.”

In addition to organic produce and house-made prepared items, Marsh Grocery will also offer an array of bulk bins with products such as grains, rice, flour and dried fruit. Additionally, there will be refrigerated and frozen items and a full line of groceries. Marsh’s organic produce is currently sourced from the two large gardens the co-op operates, as well as a regional supplier, with plans in the works to source from local growers as well.

Marsh Grocery will have a soft opening this Saturday with plans for a grand opening in August. The storefront will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday. While membership in the co-op is not required to shop, enrollment is ongoing and available on a sliding scale.