ROWLANDS - Milk and bread, along with nails and crafts are just a few items that will be available in the Rowland Cooperative Market. Slated to open this spring, Kenny Christianson is in the midst of planning and renovating the building that he and his wife Caryn purchased not too long ago.
With a new roof and solar panels intact, Christianson described the future store as a place with “quality local ingredients” where eggs, flour and more can be purchased as he works to “promote the local economy.”
Looking inside the building, a grocery store will be one half and the remaining area for breakfast or pizza; the second floor will be used for live performances. But, Christianson’s ideas aren’t a definite yet, as he considers local groups may use rooms in the back for meetings.
In 2012, the Rowland Cooperative was formed to help Christianson’s cousin who owned the building. Currently, there are six primarily involved in the cooperative that consists of the board of directors and officers. Now, Christianson is trying to attract more, so the next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, February 17 at 2 p.m.
Prior to purchasing the building, it sat vacant and after years of negotiations, Christianson purchased the structure that is actually a historic landmark. Dating back to 1852 when the canal was in operation, the building was a stable for mules. Years later, it became a general store and eventually a gas station. The history of the building, Christianson called “amazing” with stone walls from the canal still standing.
Christianson spent summers in Rowland growing up and he has family who live nearby today. He recalls floating down the Lackawaxen River and buying candy at the store. Considering his ideas and what could come for the structure, Christianson called the building “big” as he ponders the idea of a candy counter for children today. His hope with that component, is to attract families and possibly have kid bands perform too.
Being a part of a cooperative, Christianson believes will be a benefit because if the market doesn’t make profits, the other services happening through the building will work. Christianson teaches economics at Binghamton University.
With Woodloch nearby, as well as numerous communities, Christianson called Rowlands a “unique place” because it means people are passing by and with the store sitting empty for so long, that has affected the economy, which has been “depressed” since the canal closed in 1898.
Despite the economic difficulties, Christianson said Rowland is a “very tight community” with the families that reside in the area. Today though, change is needed and he noted the present heroin epidemic with few career opportunities in the area. While the Rowland General Store won’t be comparable to large nearby grocery stores, it will be a business that will offer jobs and a music venue that he related to several open mic scenes.
The Rowland General Store has been a long time coming for Christianson, as he has had ideas for a while. The business would offer eight to 10 positions for the breakfast and pizza crews, as well as maintenance staff. Because he will be busy teaching, Christianson said he will need “reliable employees.”
Christianson said he decided to open a grocery store, because people must otherwise travel to nearby towns for groceries. Recently, Christianson heard that local entrepreneurs were looking at purchasing the building and using it for offices. That idea, he said, would “destroy Rowlands.”
Most recently, the small building across the road was a bait shop; but years ago it was a tollhouse. Now, Christianson would like to sell ice cream and have an exterior deck so people can enjoy their treats while looking at the river. Inside, crafts by locals may be sold as part of a gift shop.
Progress with the building is coming along, Christianson said, but he isn’t sure what exactly will be done with his plans as of yet, because the store is a historic site. The initial idea is to keep the food “really simple,” with a basic menu of breakfast and pizza. But, with time a deli may be incorporated, along with dinner specials offering an array of cultural dishes. Due to the nearby river, he will not be able to sell gas as well.
The foods will be good, Christianson said, because they will be consistent and served quickly. He believes the Rowland Cooperative Market will be a place where people will have good food and quality items, all the while working to improve the economy in the hamlet of Rowlands.
Feedback Christianson has received thus far, has been positive with members of the community pitching ideas that include a farmer’s market. Now, Christianson is looking for thoughts on what should be sold in the smaller building. He said that peoples’ responses have been “encouraging.”
For more information about The Rowland General Store, visit https://rowlandcoop.com/ or join the Rowland Cooperative on Facebook.