Our Story

October 16, 1978: Central Co-op opened on Capitol Hill at 12th Avenue and East Denny Way. Rising from the ashes of the outgoing Capitol Hill Co-op, and with crucial financial and technical support from Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), the Co-op started out with just 100 owners and was led by a 3-person collective.

Early 1980s: Co-op membership hit 5,000. As the Co-op began outgrowing the original space, the store and property were purchased and the warehouse expanded. The collective restructured to a 4-person management team. 

1989: A major expansion project was completed with financing from the National Cooperative Bank Development Corporation, winning an award from the Seattle Design Commission. That year, with 20 workers, the Co-op achieved $1,786,758 in sales. 

1995: Non-managerial store workers won a contract with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). 

1996: Despite competition from more mainstream natural foods grocers, Central stayed the cooperative course by adopting the internationally-recognized Seven Cooperative Principles.

Right: Building out our current store at 16th & East Madison St.

As Central Co-op continued to grow, ambitious plans were made to open a new store, and the 12th Ave store was closed in the process.

Summer of 1999: Central Co-op's Madison Market opened in our current Seattle location, at 16th Avenue and East Madison Street. On July 13, Board and staff members symbolically "transferred the culture" to the new market: They carried a tub of yogurt culture seven blocks to the new store. 

2002: Non-managerial administrative workers won a contract with Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Late 2000s: The Co-op underwent an important rebranding process, dropping "Madison Market" from the name, and reclaiming its roots with our original title, Central Co-op. Central also retired the beet logo and adopted the more modern, eater-oriented fork. 

2006: Meanwhile, in Tacoma, a group recognized the need for an affordable urban grocery that would provide local, organic, and natural foods. The steering committee that formed from this meeting decided a cooperative business model would best meet that need.

Fall of 2009: Owners of the then-Tacoma Food Co-op elected the first Board of Directors.

2011: After a huge membership drive and lots of support from the community, the 6th Ave, Tacoma store opened its doors as the Tacoma Food Co-op, at the corner of 6th and Junett.

January of 2015: Central Co-op signed a historic contract with UFCW 21, increasing the Co-op's entry-level wage to $15 per hour - making our full compensation package what we believe to be the most progressive of any grocer in the nation.

Summer of 2015: Central Co-op launched a partnership with Instacart to offer home delivery, which allows Central Co-op to serve even more owners and customers from our Seattle brick-and-mortar store.

October of 2015: The then-Central Co-op signed a lease for 20 more years at our 16th & Madison store.

December 28, 2015: After historic elections at both co-ops, with record numbers of votes and landslide decisions in favor of the changes, the owners and boards of Tacoma Food Co-op and Central Co-op agreed to merge. The new co-op, also called Central Co-op, started the new year as a stronger regional solidarity cooperative now with two locations, serving and sustaining both Seattle and Tacoma, and with both worker and consumer ownership.

July 18, 2016: Central Co-op closed the 6th Ave location in Tacoma and actively pursues a new location to serve the Tacaoma-area membership.

May 26, 2017: Central Co-op signs a lease for a new Tacoma location at 4502 Pearl Street.

Summer 2018: Central Co-op will open our new Tacoma location!

It's been a whirlwind, action-packed few decades, and we're not going anywhere.