California FreshWorks funds local market

12/13/2012 01:35:00 PM
Mike Hornick

El Rancho MarketPlaceEl Rancho MarketPlace, a retailer that’s opened a second store in a vacated supermarket in Pismo Beach, Calif., is among the first businesses to receive financing from California FreshWorks Fund LLC.

The fund is a loan and grant pool mixing commercial and philanthropic dollars to back new or expanding grocery stores. In part, its aim is to support businesses that source fresh produce from local suppliers.

Fund partners include Unified Grocers, California Grocers Association, several banks and healthcare organizations.

El Rancho MarketPlace opened the 39,000-square foot store in November. A Scolari’s Food outlet on the site closed earlier this year. California FreshWorks Fund LLC financed $1.7 million on the $3.6 million store, spokesman Manny Rivera said.

About 140 employees work there. El Rancho’s original store is in Solvang, Calif.

“Not only is El Rancho MarketPlace a family-owned business buying fresh local produce, it is also stabilizing a local shopping area,” Scott Sporte, chief lending officer at NCB Capital Impact, which manages the fund, said in a news release.

The fund has invested more than $18 million in healthy food projects, and more than $200 million in loans and grants are planned for the next few years. Lead bank JPMorgan Chase provided $32.5 million to help create the fund last year.

The El Rancho project will improve access to fresh produce for San Luis Obispo County residents, Robert Ross, president of the California Endowment, said in the release. The California Endowment is a fund partner.

El Rancho is establishing relationships with local growers and ranchers, and students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, co-owner Alfred Holzheu said in the release. Cal Poly offers an agriculture major.



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