MORE than 40 years after its days as a train stop ended, the Beechworth railway station is to become a food shop.
Indigo Shire will lease the building to the Beechworth Food Co-op at a weekly rent of $120.
The co-op, a not-for-profit group that began in January 2015, has been housed in an obscure shop in Gilchrist Avenue and wanted larger and more prominent premises.
Former mayor Bernard Gaffney has criticised the deal, noting the average rent at Beechworth is $400 to $450 and the impact on Goldfields Greengrocer, the town’s only specialist fruiterer.
“I’m not 100 per cent against this, but think it is unfair to the Goldfields fruit and veg shop in Beechworth who sell probably exactly the same products and they also sell things that are grown in Beechworth, Stanley and surrounds,” Cr Gaffney told fellow councillors last week.
Deputy mayor Sophie Price said both enterprises were already competing.
“I think that we would be doing greater harm to not provide them (the co-op) a suitable space within the town to operate,” Cr Price said.
Goldfields Greengrocer owner Kathleen Mim, whose family has run the Ford Street shop since the mid-1990s, declined to comment on the decision and Cr Gaffney’s comments.
Food co-op president Jade Miles said “we’re really mindful that it’s a small town”.
“We’re not here to make a profit and challenge other businesses in how they operate,” she added.
Ms Miles said the co-op’s approach involved educating consumers about the food cycle as well as selling produce.
She said the move to the station would allow regular workshops and lectures to be held alongside the shop.
The co-op began with 60 members and 60 products for sale and now has 800 members and 500 products.
Its shop relies on a volunteer roster of 35 and opens from 2pm to 6pm Thursday to Friday and 9am to 2pm on Saturdays.
Members can buy goods from the co-op at a discounted price and have free entry to workshops.
Ms Miles said a mid-week market was likely to be held at the station but goods would have to be prepurchased online so it would not be aimed at tourists.
She hopes the co-op will occupy the station from May with a launch event slated for the June long weekend.
Education group Indigo U3A will be allowed to continue to use the station under the new deal.