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El Rancho Marketplace Opens Store With Help From Calif. FreshWorks Fund

More than 50,000 residents of a California community have increased access to healthy foods and 140 jobs closer to home, as $1.7 million in unique financing allows a new business to invest in San Luis Obispo County. One of the first loans disbursed by California FreshWorks Fund LLC provides El Rancho Marketplace the means to open a new grocery store serving Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Shell Beach.

“Not only is El Rancho Marketplace a family owned business buying fresh, local produce, it is also stabilizing a local shopping area by replacing a grocery store that closed earlier in the year—displacing workers and forcing residents to travel farther to buy fresh food,” said Scott Sporte, chief lending officer NCB Capital Impact that manages the California FreshWorks Fund.

The FreshWorks Fund provided El Rancho the flexible financing it needed to purchase equipment and inventory for its new $3.6 million store. The result is a more than 39,000-s.f. market featuring well-priced staple foods, natural goods and an in-house deli that makes many items from scratch. Local growers and food producers, with whom El Rancho Marketplace has fostered strong relationships, also will benefit from the new store with El Rancho’s commitment to local suppliers.

“While the steadfast commitment of numerous organizations in the California FreshWorks partnership make success stories like this possible, we know it’s the passion and hard work of local grocers that is critical to making health happen in communities across California,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, a lead partner in the California FreshWorks Fund. “The funding of El Rancho Marketplace will provide the local community with access to fresh produce and nutritious food options, which in turn promotes healthy eating, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.”

California FreshWorks Fund is a loan pool that combines commercial and philanthropic capital to provide flexible financing for new and expanding grocery stores. The loan pool is one of the many financing tools of the California FreshWorks Fund, a grant and loan fund that has invested more than $18 million in California healthy food projects in the last 12 months, with more than $200 million in lending and grants to follow in the next few years. Last year, Chase committed $32.5 million to help create the fund and is the FreshWorks Fund LLC’s lead bank.

“Chase is proud to be part of the growing movement to bring a greater variety of healthy food choices into underserved communities,” said Matthew Reilein, SVP of Chase Community Development Banking. “It is exciting to see the tangible result of this innovative fund, which is giving residents access to fresh good and creating more local jobs for the five-city community.”

El Rancho is a family-owned independent grocer that has operated a store in Solvang for more than 40 years. Founded by a German immigrant butcher, El Rancho Marketplace has developed a reputation for quality fresh meats and local produce. The new Pismo Beach store is El Rancho’s second supermarket serving California’s central coast.

“FreshWorks has been instrumental in making this dream possible, and we are thrilled with the opportunity that they have given us,” said Alfred Holzheu, an owner of El Rancho Marketplace. “Already, between full- and part-time employees, we have hired almost 140 employees. Plus, we are establishing relationships with local farmers and ranchers, including the students at Cal Poly.”


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