The Near East Side Cooperative Market puts people in touch with locally grown, fresh produce.

Jessica Roach is no longer a practicing nurse, but she's still helping people get healthy.

Roach is the director of the Near East Side Cooperative Market, which will hold its grand opening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, to commemorate the fifth annual Local Foods Week, Aug. 10-18. For more on the week of activities, check out

The co-op serves a variety of purposes: getting the local community in touch with fresh, healthy fare; serving as an outlet for local farmers; and getting the immediate neighborhood involved in urban gardening, she said.

"We're trying to make sure everybody has access," she said.

The market occupies 1,500 square feet of space at 1117 Oak St. in the Olde Town East area. United Provision Meat & Seafood Co., which leases a portion of the space, sells fresh foods, as well as some prepared items.

The market was founded with a $150,000 grant from Local Matters, which applied for the money on behalf of the co-op through the Community Health Funders' Collaborative Local Fund.

Anyone in central Ohio can join the co-op. Prices are $35 a year for seniors, $50 for individuals and $75 for a family of four. Membership means discounts on the various items in the store, which features a selection of dried foods, healthy snacks and beverages, such as coffee purchased through Upper Cup Coffee just a few blocks away.

Of course, people can volunteer at the store and in return, receive fresh vegetables. Others can order a "fresh bag" a week in advance. For $15, patrons will get 11 to 13 pounds of produce and value-added items, such as rice, and for $25, they will receive 22 to 23 pounds of fresh produce plus value-added groceries.

"The whole model is to be a community garden," Roach said.

Out back is a flourishing quarter-acre urban farm, which is now producing okra, cucumbers, cantaloupe and herbs, and soon will produce corn, eggplant, pumpkins, kale, small watermelons and tomatoes.

"We wanted to start small," she said. "We've had an incredible amount of food come from this farm. We didn't anticipate that."

The co-op is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday. For more information call 614-252-7799.


When Martin Garcia visited his cousin's restaurant, El Veneno in Chicago, he was impress-ed, not only by the food but the customer reaction.

People simply couldn't get a table.

"I saw people wait one hour – in the street," Garcia said. "That's too much."

It was a novel concept in America, a Nayarit-style Mexican seafood restaurant.

Nayarit, a coastal state on the Pacific coast of Mexico, is known for its seafood.

"I went to him and said, 'This is a good idea. Let's try it in Ohio,' " Garcia said.

Garcia and Juan Ramirez, founder of El Veneno, will open Alegria's Seafood & Mexican Restaurant Saturday, Aug. 10, at 6549 Perimeter Drive in Dublin. They decided a name change was in order, as veneno means poison in Spanish and alegria means happy.

The restaurant takes up more than 3,200 square feet of space in the Avery Center. It seats 100 inside.

The menu includes several familiar dishes, such as ceviche offered in two styles, shrimp and marlin; seafood cocktails, served warm and chilled; fish and shrimp tacos; and fresh oysters.

There's also a variety of seafood – lobsters, crab legs, octopus – prepared in different ways. Steaks round out the menu.

Most entree prices are $15 to $27.

Like Garcia's current restaurant, Casa Patron near the Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Alegria's festively decorated chairs, tables and high-backed booths were made by a furniture store in Guadalajara.

Alegria's will be open for lunch and dinner daily. For more information call 614-793-8190.