Gem City Market hits membership goal, works with Premier for 800 more

The Gem City Market is more than a year away from opening, but it has already exceeded its original membership goal.

The market wanted to have at least 2,000 members by the time it opened its doors. It has around 2,007, and the project hasn’t yet broken ground.

The market, which will be on the 300 and 400 block of Salem Avenue, has set its sights on getting 800 more members from its targeted trade area, which it hopes to accomplish through a new program with Premier Health.

Premier Health has agreed to provide a 50/50 membership match to residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed market site.

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Shares in the market usually are $100, but Premier will cover half of the cost for up to 800 people who live in nearby neighborhoods in West Dayton and along the Salem Avenue corridor.

Zip codes that qualify for the Premier Health match program are 45402, 45405, 45406, 45416, 45417 and 45426.

"If you live in one of those zip codes, and you want to become a member of the Gem City Market, you'll pay $50 and Premier will pay the other $50," said Lela Klein, Gem City Market board member and executive director of Co-op Dayton, which is working on the project.

People who receive public assistance can buy a Gem City Market membership for a discounted price of $10. Premier employees also can take part in the 50/50 match program.

The market already has about 1,000 members in its immediate neighborhoods, but getting 800 more members would boost the market’s chances for success, Klein said.

The market must turn members into shoppers, and it needs deep support from nearby neighborhoods, she said.

Premier Health will provide financial help for membership and ownership of this important project, said Peggy Mark, Premier Health system vice president and chief nursing officer.

Premier Health’s mission is to improve the health of the community and the Gem City Market will help achieve that goal, she said.

“Nutrition is the basis of a health body,” Mark said. “The Gem City Market and this project will be creating a lot of healthy bodies in our community.”

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Last year, Kettering Health Network announced its employees could buy shares in the market for half price, with the medical system picking up half the costs.

The program led to a large increase in market membership, said Amaha Selassie, Gem City Market board member.

The Gem City Market has been selling shares and raising funds at a rapid pace, compared to similar food cooperative projects in other communities, he said.

The market’s capital campaign has raised nearly $2.9 million. Combined with collections from membership sales, the project has more than $3 million. The capital goal is around $4.3 million, and the market is going after tax credits and a federal grant. Supporters want to take on as little debt as possible for the project.

A delay in the awarding of New Market Tax Credits has pushed back the targeted opening date of the market from late 2019, early 2020 to around mid-2020, supporters say.

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