One of Cobleskill’s oldest agricultural institutions is closing its doors for one of the oldest reasons:
Like the dairy farmers it serves, the Schoharie County Cooperative Dairies farm store—known to generations as “the Co-op Store”—is losing money.
Co-op President Art Graulich said he’ll be sad to see the store—which carries everything from pitchforks to water bucket parts to barn boots—close.
“But we’re losing money and just can’t justify it any more,” Mr. Graulich said.
“Last year, we lost $22,000. It’s a sign of the times, I guess. Dairy farms are all disappearing…We just can’t keep that up.”
Mr. Graulich, whose family runs a Carlisle dairy farm, remembers that when they joined the co-op in 1948 it was located across France Lane and the store was opened as almost an afterthought to the milk processing plant.
Over time, he said, it moved into what’s today the Feed Bag building, and eventually, across the street to its current location.
At its peak, Mr. Graulich said, the co-op had 450 members; today there are 30.
Because of its small membership, Mr. Graulich said, the store never sold enough to be able to buy high-demand items like salt or supplements by the pallet—something that would have allowed more competitive pricing.
It has, however, added on more items for horse and other livestock owners and he’s hopeful someone else will step up to fill that niche.
Cobleskill dairyman John Radliff said he’ll miss the convenience of the Co-op Store for things like medicine and chemicals that no one wants to make a trip to Oneonta for.
“It’s another example of dairy farmers losing the infrastructure they need to stay in business,” he said.
“If we can’t get what we need here, it shoots most of a whole day going somewhere else.”
Alicia Terry, head of Schoharie County Planning and Development and long involved in farming herself, agreed the Co-op Store occupies a niche that will be hard to fill.
“A lot of what they carry is very specific to dairy farmers,” she said.
“Agway, the Feed Bag, Tractor Supply—they might pick some of it up, but they have to turn a profit—rightfully so—and I worry that there won’t be enough turnover for some of these items.”
Mr. Graulich said the store will close sometime between June 1 and July 1; the sooner, the smaller the loss for 2011, he added.