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Flat Iron Cooperative raises funds as it prepares to open in Bellows Falls

BELLOWS FALLS—Principals of the Flat Iron Cooperative, a new worker-owned venture downtown, say they are hoping to raise money to open their doors — and “hoping to enrich the community with art, music, coffee, and more.”

The cooperative, which will sport a new sign by local sign artist Frank Hawkins, will be located at 51 The Square, in the historic brick building at the intersection of The Square and Westminster and Mill Streets.

A crowdfunding campaign is underway to raise $45,000 for renovations, equipment, utilities, and the lease.

The new venture was co-founded by three friends: Larisa Demos, a board chair of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives and a board member of the Springfield Food Co-op; Bri Johnson, the owner of the Flat Iron building, who has a background in art and as a librarian; and Jana Bryan, a landscape architect.

Bryan was a founder and the former owner of the Flat Iron Exchange Coffee Shop, which operated in the same space from 2014 to 2020. She sold the business in 2018.

The three said in a news release that they aim “to invigorate and bring together the community of Bellows Falls with a worker-owned coffeehouse, market, and community space.”

Overall, they said, the Flat Iron Cooperative will be “for people of all ages of all interests,” and they noted that the venture has been “created by and with the Bellows Falls community.”

At its core, “it’s a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the forefront,” but the trio said they also hope it will be a space “filled with poetry, art, music, coffee, healthy food options, and spirits, with plans for events and workshops aimed at kids, teens, and adults and collaborations with other local organizations.”

The cooperative’s Facebook page has shown glimmers of activity taking place in the space. This summer, the worker-owners made a pitch at a pop-up event for prospective consumer members.

Now, as new members of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives, the Flat Iron Cooperative is moving ahead toward opening. However, to do so, Demos, Johnson, and Bryan said they “need support from the community that, in turn, they hope to support.”

The cooperative is running a $45,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund elements of their opening. The page shows glimpses of the renovation in progress and some creative furnishings, including a large wooden counter that was once used in the office of the town clerk in North Adams, Mass. and tables and benches that have come from a bowling alley.

The project can be funded only if backers raise at least that goal by Thursday, Oct. 21 at 9 p.m. Those pledging between $25 and $10,000 will receive rewards such as personalized poems, limited edition prints, fabric collages, and other premiums.

For more information about the Flat Iron Cooperative, email flatironcoop@gmail.com.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #634 (Wednesday, October 13, 2021). This story appeared on page C3.

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