As Central Co-op continues its effort to open a second Seattle grocery store above the Capitol Hill light rail station, some members from the cooperative’s recently closed Tacoma branch want to know when they will get their store back.
The Tacoma Central Co-op closed in July when the board of trustees said it could not come to terms with the property owner on a new lease. CEO Dan Arnett said financial issues were also at play and the grocery store would have closed in the first quarter of 2016 had the merger with Central not taken place.
Some Tacoma members say they were blindsided by the closure and have been left in the dark about the future of their co-op. A group of Tacoma members have since started holding weekly meetings to demand more transparency from the board. On Sunday, Friends of the Co-op founder Monique Smith said Tacoma members drew up a list of questions for the board, including questions about the co-op’s finances. They also want the board to commit to opening a store in Tacoma within two years.
“The Tacoma community was devastated because they had worked so hard to get the co-op in that location, to serve the 6th Ave community, and to get to the point of growth in profits,” Smith said. “Without involving the Tacoma community, without asking for fundraising help to keep the co-op alive, a board of 11 members, two of which represented Tacoma, decided to close the Tacoma location.”
During a board meeting Monday night in Seattle, members of the Friends group reiterated their call for the board to commit to reopening by 2019. Prior to the meeting, Arnett told CHS the co-op was actively working to find a new Tacoma location. “Our strategy is to find the right site and location as opposed to the quickest deal,” he said.
— Seamus Mahoney (@seamusobmahoney) August 23, 2016
In a recent email to co-op members, Central Co-op board chair Dean DeCrease acknowledged that co-op management could have done more to keep Tacoma in the loop leading up to the closure.
“We clearly did not sufficiently inform and involve the Tacoma membership of the developments surrounding the closure of the 6th Avenue store,” said DeCrease in the statement. “I take personal responsibility for my failure in this regard and I will make sure this problem is overcome, with your help.”
Friends of the Co-op have been using #coop253 to document the board’s decisions and spread the word on their own activities. On Sunday around 20 people gathered in a Tacoma park to watch a live tweeting of a
board meeting “community conversation.” The Friends group will hold another meeting Sunday night.
Central Co-op has been in operation on Capitol Hill for 40 years and last year signed a 20-year lease with another 20-year option. In 1999, Central Co-op moved into the newly constructed building at 16th and Madison. The co-op got its start more than 20 years earlier on 12th Ave where it operated until the late 90s move.
Central Co-op is a CHS advertiser.
Central is currently vying against Portland-based New Seasons to win the deal to be the anchor tenant in the commercial development underway around Capitol Hill Station. The campaign has earned support from Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien.