Story of Impact: Opening New Doors for Open Harvest

Open Harvest Co-op Grocery has found a new home, now perched right smack in the middle of the Telegraph District in the heart of Lincoln.

That’s only 1.6 miles from the store’s longtime home at 17th and South streets. But it’s one giant leap for this feel-good co-op grocery store, landing in an airy 10,000-square-foot space nestled in one of the city’s newest iconic, historic districts.

“This is a dream come true,” said Amy Tabor, general manager of Open Harvest.  “And it’s finally starting to feel real. The store is filled with our merchandise and our people, and I’m no longer tempted to accidentally drive to the old location.” 

But the dream may never have become a reality without a boost from Lincoln Community Foundation, which served as fiscal sponsor for funds raised to support the move and space renovation.

“We’re a beloved organization, and I think we underestimated how Open Harvest has touched so many people,” said Carla McCullough Dittman, chair of the Open Harvest Board. “What a gift our community has given us. And gratitude to the Foundation. We hoped they might help us raise maybe $100,000, and their fund came closer to $400,000.” 

Established almost half a century ago in 1975, Open Harvest is an authentic co-op grocery store that boasts, “Real Food. Real Local. Real Community.” The store moved to its South Street location in 1990, and despite an expansion or two, was running out of space when the lease was set to expire a few years ago. It was then that the team began to explore raising money for a capital campaign. 

“Sitting in the store today, it’s amazing to think back when we were only dreaming about this possibility,” Amy remembered. “How I would ride my bike past this space and feel sure this was the place for us. And suddenly to have it all come true, because so many people gave so graciously and generously.” 

Amy emphasized that Open Harvest is not a traditional grocery store, but rather a full-service cooperative with support from 3,000 dedicated, diverse and engaged member-owners. In planning the best path forward for raising funds, the store’s financial consultant suggested that other co-ops across the country had worked with their local community foundations.

Open Harvest approached the Foundation and made the case that the project fit within the Foundation’s mission of serving and enhancing the community. And upon careful review, the Foundation agreed. 

Tracy Edgerton, vice president and general counsel for the Foundation, was excited to support Open Harvest’s fundraising efforts. “Providing equitable access to healthy food lines up perfectly with the Foundation’s core vision, and it was such an honor to work with them,” she said.  

In determining the best location for the new store, the leaders of Open Harvest sought feedback from the community. And one message came through loud and clear: it was essential to remain close to the central city core. 

“We were serious about listening to our member-owners in this major decision,” Carla said. “We conduct annual customer surveys, and it was clear that the majority did not want us to move far.”

Amy agreed and was absolutely thrilled at the results of the fundraising campaign. “I think it speaks to our community and the impact Open Harvest has had over the past 50 years,” she said, “that people clearly wanted to invest in a community grocery store.” 

Open Harvest is now open for business at the new location, while adding final touches like digital signage and outdoor seating.

“I’m just so excited that we’ve been able to continue and can now pass on this co-op for the next generation,” said Carla.

DETAILS:  Open Harvest, 330 S. 21st St., is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.