On Friday, May 26th, Central Co-op signed a new lease for a store at Pearl and 46th Street! We look forward to opening in summer 2018! Please see below for recent updates.
January 30, 2018: Building Update from CEO Garland McQueen
Dear Central Co-op members,
I am writing to inform you of the Tacoma construction progress. As you know, we have secured the site, completed the interior demolition and have made some improvements to the parking lot. After several renditions, we have now finalized the store design and are working with the architects for completion of a final and detailed set of construction plans.
Over the course of our work with the designer and architects, we have made several changes in the store design, most of which are in the back areas of the store. These were made for more efficient work space so that the staff can be more effective and serve our members in an optimal manner.
One significant and time-consuming addition was the installation of a fire suppression system (overhead sprinklers) for the safety of the staff and customers. We had initially opted to use fire-walls instead of the overhead sprinklers because we thought it would allow us to finish the project more quickly. Unfortunately, when we submitted our design to the Fire Department, they let us know that we would have to change our layout in such a way that would have made the store much less workable. In light of this information, we have decided to switch to the sprinkler system. This process has led to delays and added some design work in the backroom areas to accommodate the main water riser system for the suppression system. That has been addressed and we are now beginning to move forward. The installation process is approximately 10 weeks.
We plan to have a construction crew on site by late March and then you will see many things happening. After construction starts, I expect to have a store opening in mid to late summer. This is taking into consideration that there could be some minor unforeseen delays. We still plan to have an open-house event at the store on March 24th, to show the layout of the store and the work that has been done at that point.
It pains me to have had to delay our expansion, but I feel it is better to take our time now to offer a safer and better shopping experience for our Tacoma neighbors.
I will update as we move forward.
January 9, 2018: Central Register Tacoma Store Update by Wesley Barga, Operations Director
We’re so excited about opening our new store on Pearl Street in Tacoma. We’ve heard from many of you about what kind of store you want to see, and what kind of programs and products you want to see. We’ve put much time into designing a store that can meet those needs, and be successful in the area. We’ve come up with a store layout and plan that we think is going to effectively serve the South-Sound community.
One thing that we’ve heard loud and clear is that it’s important to ensure that local products are well represented. We’ll be hiring buyers to work for the Tacoma store specifically, and will be working to get area favorites on our shelves and form meaningful relationships with suppliers. We believe that forming these relationships both ensures that local, culturally relevant products are available to our shoppers, and that it helps to build a robust economy of successful small businesses. We’re committed to strengthening the Washington food economy. As we move into our build-out phase, we wanted to share some more about some of the things that we have planned for the new store.
We’re building a robust bulk department. Bulk foods are a high priority to people that we’ve heard from. We’ll make sure that waste-free goods are easy to get, and that we’re offering hard-to-find items like bulk honey, fresh ground peanut butter and bulk spices.
Our produce department will be another highlight. We’ll make sure that it’s fresh, delicious, bright and beautiful. We emphasize organic and spray free produce. We’ll have every day organic items, and are excited to be bringing in offerings from area farms.
Our deli department has occupied a lot of our planning time. We’re excited to be bringing house-made fresh deli food to the neighborhood, with unique flavors. I’m particularly excited about the "bowl" and taqueria programs that we are developing. We’ll have an opportunity here to offer made-to-order dishes, accommodating a variety of dietary needs, with unique flavors. I think that this will be a great opportunity to let the creativity of our cooks shine through. We’ll also have pizza, a hot bar, sushi, and plenty of grab-and-go packaged items. One thing that our members asked for that we were unable to make happen was a salad bar. We’re concerned that the sales volume won’t be quite enough to make sure that we can keep the ingredients fresh and awesome, without having to dispose of too much food. We will evaluate this carefully over the next few years, and will be ready to add one if we believe we can make it work.
We are putting in an awesome community space. This room will double as deli seating when there isn’t an event going on, and will make a great space for hosting classes, workshops, and other community events. We’re hoping to be able to put in a whole kitchen in there for cooking classes, and big TV’s so that we can all watch things together, like sporting events or food-related movies. We’ll also be building an awesome patio outside, wrapping around the building, so our members have a nice spot to sit and enjoy their food.
It’s taking some time to make happen, but I’m glad we’re putting the effort into making sure we get this store just right. We’re building a store that will enrich the lives of the people who shop there, create a space for the staff to develop their careers and unleash their creativity, and be a great outlet for area producers. We can’t wait to see you there.
October 30, 2017: Building Update from CEO Garland McQueen
Dear Central Co-operators,
I am very happy to say that our landlord on N. Pearl St., has officially given us possession of the building. Over the last several months, they have done a lot of work removing old walls, putting a new roof on, updating the HVAC system in the building, and updating the lights in the parking lot. We now have what is called a “warm vanilla shell” to work with.
Our project manager came on-board with us last week. He will be the person in charge of coordinating all of the contractors, fixtures, finishes, and supplies that we need to open our doors. He has worked with many grocery co-ops around the country on projects just like ours, and his vast experience will be a huge asset to us throughout the project.
Our architect is now working with our fixture plan to make sure that we have the proper layout to accommodate our needs. Once that is complete, we will be able to get contractors in to start our portion of the work on the building. We are looking at incorporating as many sustainable features into the project, such as electric car chargers, as we can. Our member survey from last summer also told us that many would be interested in seeing solar panels installed at the store. We have priced this option out and have determined that member participation in meeting our goal for Preferred Shares will be key in our being able to add solar to the scope of our project. If you would like to participate, please contact Member Services Manager Aaron Waldkoetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to everyone who came to our event on October 14th. It was a pleasure getting to speak with you and show you the beginnings of our new store! We will look for opportunities to offer hard hat tours as the work progresses.
Join us for another Sneak Peek at the Pearl Street store on October 14!
After the success of our first Sneak Peek event in August, we are excited to give people another preview of what is to come!
Please join us in our new parking lot where we will have plans for the layout of the new store, information about jobs and membership at Central Co-op, refreshments, and - if worksite conditions allow- an opportunity to see into the store while it's under construction.
October 14, 2018
4502 North Pearl Street (the corner of Pearl and 46th)
October 5, 2017: Tacoma Native Joins the Team as Project Manager
Our landlord at the N. Pearl Street site is finishing up the work that they have been doing to get ready for us to move in and get started our side of the build-out! The new roof is complete, the façade is underway, and the entrances to the parking lot are updated to reflect today’s regulations. If all goes according to plan, our contractors will be able to get started inside the building in mid-October.
â€‹Also in mid-October, our Project Manager for the build-out, Michale Valente, will be coming on board. Michael is an outside consultant who will be lending us his store build-out know-how to make sure our project is moving at the pace that we need it to.
"One of my favorite memories was spending the summers going to Franklin Park on my bike everyday, playing box hockey, shooting hoops and picking & eating cherries and apples all day growing in the park” he says. “It's good to come back home, see my family and old friends in my old stomping ground! I'm looking forward to it!" - Michale Valente
Michael has 25 years of experience in the grocery industry, working his way up through every store department. He has worked extensively in both conventional and natural/organic markets, operating single and multi-store locations. As a consultant, Michael used his extensive knowledge of store management to help troubled stores and cooperatives achieve profitability. This insight has also provided Michael the ability to design and build stores with both the shopper and the staff in mind to provide the best working and shopping environment possible. His experience in the grocery industry and with co-ops makes him ideally qualified in his role as Project Manager.
Michael is originally from Tacoma. When he was 4, his dad and uncle were stationed at Fort Lewis and brought along their families. 40 years later his family still lives throughout Washington State.
September 12, 2017: Email from Garland McQueen Naming Our New Pearl Street Store Manager
Dear Central Co-operators,
I am writing to announce a great development in the life of our store on North Pearl Street: We have hired Victor Fontaine to be the Store Manager of that location!
Victor will officially assume his role in the coming weeks as we progress toward opening the store. As Store Manager he will be vital to our process of hiring staff, coordinating with suppliers and producers, and ensuring that everything is in place for our opening.
All of you will, no doubt, recognize Victor as he has a long history with our co-op – in fact, he was a part of Tacoma Food Co-op staff from day one. At one point or another, he worked in almost every area possible at the store on 6th Ave, from doing janitorial work, to management responsibilities and everything in between, including bookkeeping. Victor not only has the retail expertise necessary to effectively run store operations, he also has the personal investment in our values and our community to be an effective leader of our store staff.
“At the 6th Avenue store, I always dreamed of a store where we could have a community room, a deli, and the resources to have an even bigger impact in our community,” Victor says. “When the 6th Ave store closed, I shared the sense of loss with the members who had also put so much of themselves into the original location, but I also felt a sense of renewed energy and excitement for the moment that we would come back even stronger. That’s why, even though I was offered other compelling job opportunities, I decided that the Co-op was where I wanted to be. I am especially excited to see the impact of the new store in the community including the new jobs that will be created, supporting local vendors both new and old, and community outreach.”
Victor brings a passion for the cooperative movement and principles, especially Cooperative Principle 5, education and information. We look forward to seeing his accomplishments on North Pearl Street, as he works with our 35 to 40 future staff members to welcome and serve our members and the larger community.
Please join me in celebrating and congratulating Victor!
Also, mark your calendar for October 14 from 12-3pm when you're invited to our second Sneak Peek event in the parking lot of the new location.
See you at the Co-op!
Garland McQueen, CEO
August 31, 2017: Email from Garland McQueen after our Sneak Peek event
I want to again thank all the members and neighbors who came to see us at the parking lot event on Saturday, August 19.
The Board members, Directors, other staff; as well as I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet and answer questions about the location, types of items, number of employees, and the most popular question of “When do you expect to open?”
We always look forward to the opportunity to share information about our Co-op and we plan to have more of these events as the construction begins. As for the construction; the landlord is in the process of completing some of the preliminary work (a new roof, new HVAC system, bringing the parking lot into compliance with city regulations, etc) and our architect is in the process of completing the final plans so that we can secure a contractor to begin the interior build out. This is when the fun begins.
I will provide more updates as the construction progresses.
Although we will not be hiring immediately, we are posting what positions will be available. You can find that information by following this link.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to serve the entire Tacoma area.
See you at the Co-op, Garland McQueen, CEO
August 22, 2017: Hundreds of Neighbors Enjoy a Sneak Peek!
Thanks to all the enthusiastic people who came out to our Sneak Peek at our future Tacoma location last Saturday!
We were happy to see so many people from the neighborhood and beyond show up to learn more about the new store and to give us their feedback about the products we should carry and vendors we should partner with. In addition, people were able to view the store plans, peek into the building, talk to trustees, and learn about job opportunities, membership and preferred shares. We were especially gratified that so many long-time neighborhood residents (including many who shopped or worked in the building back when it was a Piggly Wiggly) are so eager for us to open! We are, too!
Interested in working at our new location? Sign up for updates on jobs. You will have to create an account, click "Apply for a Job" and then "Start a New Application," but don't worry, most of the fields are optional and you'll be able to change your information when you actually apply for a job. We just want to have your contact information in our jobs system so it will be easy to get you information about new jobs as they are available.
August 18, 2017: The Tacoma store Sneak Peek is this Saturday!
Our cooperative grocery store is coming to North Pearl Street! Building renovations are now underway, and we plan to be open for business in early 2018. In the meantime, we are excited to give everyone a preview of what is to come!
Please join us for an early sneak peek event in our new parking lot. We will be there with plans for the layout of the new store, information about jobs at Central Co-op, snacks and drinks, and a chance to look inside!
Saturday, August 19
12pm to 4pm
Central Co-op, Tacoma
4502 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, 98407
We look forward to seeing you!
July 18, 2017: Email to South Sound members of Central Co-op
Dear Central Co-op members, One year ago today, with heavy hearts, the Co-op closed our location on Sixth Avenue, and one year ago today we committed to opening a store again as quickly as possible. It has taken us a bit longer than we originally anticipated, but today I am happy to be able to say that the landlord’s improvements to our new site on Pearl Street are well underway and we are close to starting our portion of the renovations in mid-August.
As we have been out and about in the community we have had a number of people ask if their Tacoma Food Co-op memberships would “be good” at our new Pearl Street location. The answer to this question is a resounding YES! Since we have heard this question more than a few times, I wanted to reach out to all of you in order to make sure that you were aware of this.
When the Tacoma Food Co-op and Central Co-op merged in 2015, the two cooperatives became one. People who joined the Tacoma Food Co-op are members of Central Co-op.
I also want to emphasize the point that sets cooperatives apart: we are made of people, not walls, shelves or flooring. In short, our cooperative association is not the same thing as our physical store location. Though we had to close our site on 6th Avenue, our cooperative remained strong and intact. Your membership equity and avenues for participation still stand.
We look forward to opening a new store location to serve our South Sound members again. When the merger of the two cooperatives happened, our Tacoma members were eager for a seating area, fresh deli, larger bulk department, fresh meat and seafood and more. I am happy that with our new location, we will be able to bring these features to Tacoma.
In Cooperation, Garland McQueen
July 5, 2017: Updates on Pearl Street from our CEO
Dear Central Co-op Member,
Since you live in the Tacoma area and I am sure you are eager for news about our re-opening, I wanted to send a quick update to keep you in the loop.
I know you have seen very little action at our new Pearl Street site, but there is much going on behind the scenes in preparation for the build out to begin.
We are in the process of securing all the necessary permits to begin construction. This is time consuming, so we do not expect to be able to begin our part of the actual build-out for 2 to 3 months.
The current tenants of the store location are continuing to move out and the building will be vacant in the second week of July. At that time, the property owners will begin some minor construction in preparation for our crew to start. This will take several weeks.
In the meantime, we are expecting our final floor plan to be complete at any time. Once we have a final plan done, the architect will begin his building plans.
We are pleased to say that the Coffeezaun Coffee Kiosk will continue serving fine coffee during the build-out, and will remain at the site as one of our business partners.
I also want to mention that our Marketing team has been in the neighborhood visiting homes and businesses. If you have not seen them yet, I am sure you will soon. We have had a very good reception in the community around our location and I have received many positive and supportive emails. Speaking for the Central Co-op team and myself, we feel honored to receive such a warm welcome. We are also proud to be sponsoring the Pierce County Fresh booth at the Eastside location of the Tacoma Farmer's Market, and the Tacoma Pride Festival coming up this weekend!
I only wish the project could move along faster, but proper work takes proper planning and time. I will continue with the updates as often as needed.
See you in Tacoma,
June 6, 2017: Steps Toward the Grand Opening
Now that we’ve announced that our new Tacoma location is found and the lease is signed, we’re sure a lot of you are wondering what the next steps are. Read this blog post for an idea of what to expect in the coming months!
May 26, 2017: A Special Announcement from CEO Garland McQueen:
It is with great excitement that I write to announce that we have signed a lease on a new location in Tacoma!
The site is in the West End Neighborhood, at 4502 North Pearl Street. The site was originally a grocery store, but has most recently been occupied by Bargain World. The lease, which I just signed this morning, is for ten years with options to extend – allowing us to meaningfully invest in the facilities needed to effectively serve the South Sound community for years to come.
When the store opens, it will have close to 14,000 square feet of retail space and it will feature an emphasis on fresh foods with lots of produce, a complete bulk section, a fresh meat and seafood counter, and a large deli with an in-house kitchen and seating area. All of these are features that our members have told us are priorities for them in a co-op store.
The site has an ample parking lot and is on two bus lines. It is large enough that we will be able to include a sizable community room that we will use for co-op gatherings and workshops. The size of this location will allow us to expand our focus on local producers, and to bring in the more than 250 products that are now a part of our Co+op Basics program, which features everyday products at great prices.
We are very happy that we were able to find a space of this size, with the parking spaces and other amenities we need, within the city limits of Tacoma. We will be making renovations before we move our equipment in to the space. If all goes according to plan it is possible that we could be up and running around the turn of the year. As the renovations begin, we will put updates and pictures on the Tacoma updates page on our website and share them through social media as possible. As we get closer to opening day, we will be hiring at least 35 people to staff the store, and we will be holding a job fair in the neighborhood in the coming months. We also plan to host several hard-hat tours for members and neighbors who are interested.
We will send more information when it is available. Please stay tuned for updates. We are very excited to reopen in Tacoma and to work to grow our presence in the community.
See you at the Co-op!
Garland McQueen, CEO
April 23, 2017: From the remarks of acting CEO Garland McQueen at the Central Co-op Annual Owner Meeting:
As you know, Central Co-op has been deeply involved in the search for a new site in the Tacoma area. Over the months, there have been several occasions when we have thought that we were close to having a new home there. We are happy to now be able to say that we have identified a very promising location in the city of Tacoma, and we should be starting lease negotiations soon. Until the negotiations are final, we cannot offer any more detail than that. If all goes according to plan, we expect to be serving our Tacoma members again by the end of the year. This may be the first of our new locations, as we plan to continue to look at additional sites to further improve accessibility to the Co-op for our community in that area.
More updates to follow as soon as details become available!
February 27, 2017: Note from acting CEO Garland McQueen:
To the valued members of Central Co-op,
This is a time of many transitions for our cooperative and I wanted to write and introduce myself. My name is Garland McQueen and I have been brought in by the Board of Trustees to serve as acting CEO of Central Co-op while they seek a permanent replacement for my predecessor who took a new position in Sacramento. I have worked in many markets around the country, serving as an interim leader at co-ops and natural food stores that are experiencing change similar to Central Co-op.
The bad news that the Tacoma Co-op would be closing left Tacoma residents without a co-op, more specifically, your co-op. That was an example of having no good way to deliver bad news. I want to reinforce, and assure you, that we are very actively seeking a location for Central Co-op in the Tacoma area, and I am happy to say that I have experience that I can bring to bear on this effort.
Some of my previous background has been to find available locations for co-ops and to serve as project manager during the construction stage. During my career, I have worked in many co-ops and natural grocery stores prior to arriving at Central; some of them were expansion projects. I have participated in the building of three stores from the ground-up and led four others through successful remodel efforts.
Since arriving in the Northwest from Atlanta, everyone has made me feel very welcome and I feel right at home. I have also made several visits to the Tacoma area to review potential sites using criteria from the survey sent to the Tacoma members. (The survey that the Board sent out covers questions related to store features, departments, sustainability, values, and selection. If you have not yet responded, please click here to share your thoughts.) After reviewing where we are with the Tacoma location project, I believe that we are in a good position to move forward.
We are not at the point to make any decisions as yet, but this is the top priority for my top management, the Board of Trustees, and myself. The projected time for opening a new location will depend upon the magnitude of any construction or renovation that is needed. I look forward to the day we have another location near you.
See y’all at the Co-op,
January 16, 2017: A note from Dean DeCrease, Board Chair
Dear Members of Central Co-op,
It has been some time since our last update about the search for our new Tacoma location and we know you are eager for news. Our search in Tacoma is the top priority for Co-op leadership and we are working hard to find a location that will meet the needs of our membership for many years to come.
Through answers to our survey questions, notes and phone calls, direct contact and community conversations, we have heard from many of our members about what is important in our next location. We wanted to share our key takeaways so you can know our direction. If you have yet to participate in our survey, please click here to see the questions (now compiled in one document) and share your perspective with us.
We have heard, first and foremost, that it is important that the Co-op re-open a location in Tacoma as quickly as possible. In addition to working quickly, we have heard that the features and services that are most desired at our new location include a fresh deli, a meat and seafood counter, a bakery, a hot bar and salad bar, and classroom space. In terms of prioritizing sustainable features at the new store, solar panels, an on-site composter and using recycled materials in the new location are the top three choices. We have also heard that our new store should be easily accessible by car, bicycle, foot, and public transportation.
With the help of real estate professionals, we have been looking at potential sites over the last several months and have found several promising options which our Board, operations team and consultants are evaluating on the basis of member feedback, accessibility, lease terms, build-out or renovation prospects, and long-term potential. We are working quickly and carefully to find the right, long-term site for our Co-op and it may take several more months before we find the right opportunity. Following that, there will be negotiations and securing financing. Then we will be able to begin any building or renovation that is required.
Thank you for your patience as we work towards our new home in Tacoma. We share your eagerness to get something up and running as quickly as is feasible and we look forward to the day that we can make an announcement about our location and be able to give a good idea of a timeframe for reopening.
If you have not yet answered our survey questions, please do take a moment to do so.
Central Co-op Board Chair
October 1, 2016: A note from Dan Arnett, CEO (from our Central Register Fall 2016)
As noted in prior communications, our cooperative recently faced a difficult challenge when lease negotiations failed to produce mutually agreeable terms for our 6th Avenue location and our Board and management team made the painful decision to shut down operation at that site. We are actively working to secure a new store site in Tacoma. This is a very high priority for our top leadership team. Several potential sites are being reviewed. It is important to find a site that is accessible to the membership and that has the characteristics we know are associated with successful cooperative stores. Any new store will be an investment and the assets held by our members must be prudently deployed. That said, we all agree that a new site is an urgent matter and moving as quickly as we can while maintaining appropriate diligence is paramount. While short term pressure and sentiments can be powerful persuaders, we must tend to the long term financial and associational health of the cooperative. A new, improved site and location in Tacoma will serve members and contribute to the strength and vitality of the whole organization.
Tacoma Members of Central Co-op,
We are grateful for the participation of the members who attended the Community Conversation at the STAR Center in Tacoma. The passion in the room was so encouraging – we will need it as we come together to find and fund a new store as quickly as possible.
We are still processing the extensive feedback we received, but a few themes are resonating:
1. Communication: We clearly did not sufficiently inform and involve the Tacoma membership of the developments surrounding the closure of the 6th Avenue store. I take personal responsibility for my failure in this regard and I will make sure this problem is overcome, with your help.
2. Trust: We need to build trust as two cooperative cultures that have come together in a challenging time to do something great. We are now a 15,000 member co-op working in two Puget Sound communities. This will require us to learn new ways of organizing, communicating and working together despite the 35 mile range of our activities. Trust is also proactive – we need to support each other and resist the efforts of those who would divide us.
3. Involvement: We have work to do. We need to build mechanisms for members to contribute meaningfully to the forward progress of this co-op in Tacoma. To that end, we will be inviting interested members to a discussion that will inform how we structure the work of the Tacoma linkage committee and how members can support the growth of the co-op. This session will be held in Tacoma on August 30th.
Thanks again for the amazing work you have done to build this co-op in Tacoma and thanks for your dedication to building it even better in the future.
Board Chair, Central Co-op
Dear Co-op Members,
Last week, Central Co-op on 6th Avenue was forced to close after every co-op manager’s worst nightmare: non-negotiable lease terms (beyond the co-op’s best interests to agree to) arriving at the 11th hour. The closure of our 6th Avenue site is very difficult for us – our members, our employees, our co-op. We are temporarily without a store to call our own in Tacoma, our great local vendors have a gap in working with a strong partner, and all of the staff at the 6th Ave location (including myself) have been laid off.
Speaking as the 6th Avenue Store Manager, I know that without the merger with Central Co-op earlier this year, the Tacoma Food Co-op would have been in the same position, unable to meet the landlord’s terms and having to close. The difference is that the Tacoma Food Co-op would not have had the reserves and staffing to reopen at all.
The co-op on 6th Ave was a magical place that was built by the community between 2006 and now. We had great produce, delicious local goodies, strong community bonds between members and staff, an awesome team, and the authentic “co-op smell” you’ll encounter in any great co-op around the world. The merger with Central brought new opportunities to have the co-op that the community envisioned and worked toward since the beginning: the full product selection and all the amenities we need to be the hub for Tacoma’s local, natural foods, and co-op movements that we didn’t have the resources to achieve as Tacoma Food Co-op. Despite the closure of our 6th Ave site, the benefits of the merger remain intact.
Now that we are a combined co-op we are stronger and have greater capacity, which means the co-op will be finding the best site for the Tacoma community. How can I be so sure?
Unfortunately, the co-op wasn’t able to find a new site prior to having to close operations on 6th Ave. Finding the right space and setting-up take time, and this gap between the 6th Ave store and new store is the most painful part for all of us. However, I am certain that the location we choose will be among the finest co-op stores the region has ever seen.
Today is a hard day, but now the co-op will be free to be what the Tacoma community wants and deserves. I hope the community will join me in engaging with Central Co-op on what you want to see in our next store here. We all share the same dream: a co-op that is not just a grocery store, but a hub for the local and natural foods movement, inspiring local food and cooperative innovation throughout the city.
Former Store Manager, Central Co-op
Former General Manager, Tacoma Food Co-op
Central Co-op Trustee
July 26, 2016
Dear Co-op Members,
I have been an active member of the Tacoma Food Coop from almost the very beginning. I have served on the Board of the Tacoma Food Coop from the summer of 2010 (Pre-opening) through December of 2015 when the merger with Central coop was complete and had the distinct honor to be Board President during those last two years. This service has provided me with a unique perspective on what it takes to create and grow a successful Co-op.
We were all shocked and troubled by the sudden closure of the 6th Ave location last week. I unfortunately was not completely surprised by it. The hard truth about our beloved storefront is that it was insufficient to the task of creating the type of Co-op we all wanted. One that was successful, had real impact in the community, and treated its staff, suppliers, and owners with dignity and respect.
How long have we known that this was the case? Longer than most of the membership knows. Our struggles with our size and the physical limitations of the 6th Avenue location were apparent to those of us even before the coop opened its doors. Most of the successful coops in the region had larger footprints than what we were dealing with. There were some examples of small stores that were doing ok financially but not really any examples of small footprint stores doing great. We felt at the time that we could make that footprint work, but we knew it was small and the support spaces were very constrained.
So why did we open up at that location knowing that it might be an uphill struggle to truly become successful? Several reasons. First it’s what the membership wanted. Time and time again we asked, and time and time again we were told that our membership wanted a brick and mortar storefront, a place to call home. Second we were on the clock. From the time a group begins a Coop to the time that effort succeeds or fizzles out is about five years. Amber Englund had begun the earliest efforts in 2006 and our efforts to open the storefront were occurring in 2011. And finally because there was an opportunity as presented to us by John Loesch to convert his conventional space into a coop thereby reducing our startup costs by more than half. With that opportunity on the table and the very real momentum that we felt within our membership we took a chance on Tacoma, we took a chance on the Coop.
But weren’t we successful during the four and a half years that we operated as Tacoma Food Coop? Unfortunately we weren’t. And this was due to several factors. First we were not able to raise as much capital as we wanted to when we opened and that limited the improvements we could afford to make in the store. Second our projections for growth were overly optimistic. We had hoped to achieve double digit growth every year for the first few years because that was the kind of growth that coops had always achieved in the past. But by chance we opened up the Coop at a time when the industry was changing. Coops were no longer seeing that level of growth as our conventional competitors began to compete directly with us. And last we made some mistakes and poor decisions in some of the investments we made. We overbought, we underbought, we bought the wrong product, we made all sorts of mistakes that could reasonably be expected of a startup to make. And as a result we saw losses. Some small, some large, but consistently we lost money.
Ever the optimist I kept believing that there was going to be some combination of staff, resources and outside influences which would eventually propel us past the limitations we faced. Assuming of course that we survived long enough for that to happen. And it did happen. We were offered an opportunity to merge our coop community with the Central Coop’s community in Seattle. It was on balance a god send. It allowed us to immediately become the Coop we wanted to be. Better wages, lower prices, and wider impact.
Which brings us back to the current impasse. How come the lease negotiations failed? They failed because the two sides could not come to mutually agreeable terms. Now that may seem a trite response, but it makes it no less true. And it in essence comes down to a differing opinion, a differing vision on what it takes to run a business. John’s business model and his perspective on what is important to succeed has always been at odds with our own vision and business perspective. John ran a successful conventional corner grocery for years before the first time he tried to retire. At some point he decided he would be more successful if he split his property into two business. Since that time no business has successfully operated on that property. Not his own grocery, not the restaurant, not the bar, and not the Coop. We began our renegotiations with John in August of last year signaling our intention to renew the lease and expressing an interest in acquiring the space that was occupied by the bar. This was before merger talks and though we weren’t sure at that time we could afford to take over the rear of the store we wanted to pursue that option.
Then the merger talks and the successful effort to complete the merger. Almost immediately we began to see benefits of that decision. Better wages and lower prices and the very real hope of taking the Coop to the next level. And it was at this time that my service to the coop ended. I do not have any additional knowledge about what was and was not in the terms which were rejected by the Coop Board this month. But I have a true working knowledge of the factors that the Central Board would be considering as they made their decisions. How much investment would it take to reconnect the front half of the store with the rear? How much would that investment grow the sales floor of the coop? Would that investment allow for a Deli, a hot bar, a prep kitchen or any other number of options? What level of sales growth would that investment stimulate and would that growth be sufficient to provide a return on that investment? These and many more considerations would have gone into the decision, but the one consideration that would have been more important than any other would have been. Is this deal in the best interest of the community we are trying to serve? And not just the short term interests, but long term does this deal make sense. If it didn’t then the board had a responsibility to make the tough call. It may not make sense to say that the closing of a storefront, the laying off of our simply awesome staff of our Tacoma store is in the best interests of the Tacoma community, but the truth is it most certainly was. I know the all the players involved. I know the integrity of the Board of Trustees, I know about their commitment to this community, and I know about their abilities to govern effectively. These are among the most dedicated and caring individuals that I have ever met. They are also among the most capable. They are a nationally recognized force for good in the cooperative movement and they would not have, could not have made the decision that they did if it was not absolutely without reservation the right decisions for the coop. And they made that decision knowing that they would face a community that would be devastated by the loss. They made it anyway.
And they are not done. The Coop in Tacoma is a growing concern. We will be back, bigger, better, and stronger than ever. I would ask all the members in the Tacoma community to join me in supporting our Board over the next few months. We are stronger together, believe it.
Former TFC board member 2010-2015 and Board President 2013-2015
Dear South Sound Membership,
As your member-based, volunteer board we take our decision-making responsibility very seriously. In the interest of making the most of those decisions, we consider member feedback a crucial part of our governing process.
Today we are launching a series of survey questions to help get input for our new store that we hope you will all participate in answering! A link to our first survey question is below - and more will follow in the coming days. Participating in processes like this is an important part of being a member of a co-op. We invite you to share with your friends and neighbors too!
To participate, please click the survey link below!
Our membership is filled with creative thinkers with lots of opinions and we want to hear from you! Thank you for playing an important role in the progress toward our new store.
Central Co-op Board of Trustees
I know many of you are shocked and dismayed at the sudden closing of the 6th Avenue Co-op. So am I! Abruptly, last week, lease negotiations with the landlord ended when we were presented with an ultimatum and we could not, as your Trustees, agree to lease terms that would be detrimental to our success in the long run. It was a terribly difficult decision to make. We all love our co-op. It’s a part of who we are.
We’ve already begun the search process for a new location in the Tacoma area. As a Tacoma resident and a co-op member-owner, I am excited about the opportunities that a new store will bring to our area.
The words “Tacoma area” mean that we are open to whatever location meets our needs. Please don’t be put off by them. Tacoma comprises many neighborhoods, and while many former TFC members live in the 6th Ave. neighborhood, many others live in other neighborhoods. I live on McKinley Hill. I used to make the 6-mile drive to the co-op once a week. My alternative is Fred Meyer, two miles away, but, well, you know: not the co-op! I, for one will be shopping at the co-op again the day it opens, whatever neighborhood it’s in.
A co-op is as strong as the people who participate in it. Your input is critical to the success of the future Tacoma store. In the long run what do we all want? A co-op first and foremost. A bigger co-op? Classes? A deli? A meat department? Fresh fish? More interaction with our community? What facilities will we need to do all that? Where? One location or more? We’ll be asking for your ideas and creativity as we search for a new location. Stay tuned.
Please understand that we, your trustees, are doing our utmost to make the best decisions for our Co-op’s membership: not hurried or costly decisions, the right decisions.
Central Co-op Trustee
Dear South-Sound Owners and Community,
Effective July 18, 2016, the Central Co-op 6th Avenue site in Tacoma is closed for business and a search for a new location in the Tacoma area has been initiated. Our Board of Trustees made this decision after months of lease negotiations failed to produce a mutually agreeable set of terms between the landlord and the Cooperative. The closure of the 6th Avenue location is a sad and unexpected turn of events. After years of operating at this location, we were confident that all parties could come to an agreement that would benefit our business, our membership, and the property owner. We continued negotiations until we realized that a solution was beyond our reach and made the decision to close in order to give ourselves time to exit in a responsible manner. Our team is actively evaluating other sites in the Tacoma area with plans to re-open.
Our union contract with UFCW Local 367 includes language for closure and layoffs that will guide our process with the staff of the 6th Avenue location.
We remain committed to our South-Sound membership. Our Co-op’s staff and trustees are focused on finding a new location for our Tacoma operations. Throughout this process we will continue to serve our South-Sound community with events, community partnerships, and regular Co-op news updates.
Please scroll down for updates. We will also remain active on the Facebook page. If you have questions, please email email@example.com.
Thank you for supporting Central Co-op,
Central Co-op Board Chair
Central Co-op President and CEO
Central Co-op's Board of Trustees has put together some questions about what features and services are most important to our members and community. Please take a moment to give your feedback!
December 28, 2015: Central Co-op and Tacoma Food Co-op have merged!
After historic elections at both co-ops, with record numbers of votes and landslide decisions in favor of the changes, our owners and our boards have agreed to merge.
Seattle Election Results: 1439 to 102 in favor of merging (record 12.7% turnout)
Tacoma Election Results: 314 to 10 in favor of merging (17.8% turnout)
These decisions mean we are beginning 2016 as one solidarity cooperative with two locations, serving and sustaining both Seattle and Tacoma.
Central Co-op 16th & Madison, Seattle
Central Co-op, Tacoma
About Our Solidarity Model
Voters at both co-ops also approved--by a landslide!--a new solidarity structure for Central Co-op, based on sharing ownership, surplus distribution, representation, and investment between consumer-owners and worker-owners.
What to Expect
As a shopper, you probably won’t notice things being any different at our 16th & Madison store as a result of these changes, but our Co-op will be stronger than ever.
Owners will also soon be able to use their owner numbers at both stores.
As a member of Tacoma Food Co-op, you'll soon see some exciting changes:
Stay tuned to our information outlets for updates as we get the systems in place!