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Publish Date: 7/24/2005

Co-op market hurting
But manager says store shouldn’t have to shut doors

LONGMONT — In an attempt to keep the Longmont Co-op Market from closing, the organization’s board of directors has appealed to the community and its members for help.

The co-op’s board met July 12 and “was considering closing the co-op,” general manager Steve Phillips said. “We weren’t getting the sales we needed. We have not had enough community support. Our sales were not growing as projected, and we weren’t making any money yet.”

But in the past week, the market has seen such a show of support from its members, “I don’t think we’ll be closing now,” he said.

The natural foods cooperative, which is owned by its members, opened in December after taking over the former Healthway Foods of Longmont location at 21st Avenue and Main Street.

Phillips said that last year, the cooperative needed to raise at least $200,000 to make it a viable business.

The co-op had raised $150,000 by the time it opened its doors, he said.

In the past six months, the co-op raised an additional $31,000, $11,000 of that in the past week, he said.

Since the plea went out to the community, members have donated money and others have started shopping there more often.

“We’ve seen such a good show of support, I don’t think anyone is going to make a rash decision (about closing the co-op),” Phillips said.

Last week, the store’s sales were twice what they were the week before, he said.

“Our minimum monthly sales need to be $64,000,” Phillips said. “We had been doing around $50,000.”

He added that if “we kept sales at the rate they were going last week, they would be $74,000 a month. That would be plenty, and then we know we can meet our expenses and steadily grow the business from there and steadily make improvements.”

June Spear stepped in last week and donated money to help keep the co-op open.

“I believe in the concept and would like to see it grow and support our own community and community farms as much as we can,” she said.

Rebecca Walker, who joined the co-op at the end of June, said she likes the market because it is an “easier place for me to shop. It is an easier parking lot to get in and out of.”

Walker added that she is “getting quite attached to the people (at the co-op).”

One of her favorite aspects of shopping at the market is running into people she knows.

“It brings cohesiveness to the community when you can have that happen,” she said.

Walker also volunteers at the co-op, helping out with inventory, “which turned out to be really fun,” she said. “I saw all these neat foods I wanted to try. They actually have a lot more stuff than they did when they opened.”

The market is always looking for locally made or grown products to sell, Phillips said. It also is looking for new members to help keep the organization afloat.

Phillips also helped start the Boulder Co-op Market, which has been operating for about 21/2 years. That market also has been struggling financially, general manager Janey Bowen said.

“Things are getting better. We have a plan toward profitability,” she said. “Basically there was a lot of money put into capital expenditures, as far as the building goes. They misjudged the sales volume initially.”

The Boulder Co-op’s board of directors came up with a recovery plan in March, and “we’re doing a lot better. All the trends are towards profitability,” Bowen said.

One of the main changes made by the Boulder natural foods cooperative was to improve its financial-reporting mechanisms.

“Initially, there weren’t any current or solid financial statements,” Bowen said. “Now, with what we have, we are able to make educated decisions based on current, correct financials.”

The organization also is educating its staff about customer service and general merchandising.

“My main mission is to please the customer,” Bowen said. “That’s going to be our focus from here on out with everything we do.”

She added that the Boulder Co-op supports what the Longmont Co-op is trying to do and is willing to help it out in any way it can.

The Longmont Co-op’s board of directors will continue to monitor sales over the next few weeks.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211 or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.

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