Vancouver Food Co-op votes to continue operations

News of nonprofit's potential dissolution spurs spike in volunteers, sales

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian arts & features reporter


Updated: November 20, 2013, 4:30 PM



Previously: Directors of the nonprofit, member-operated Vancouver Food Cooperative recommended dissolving the business.

What’s new: The crisis garnered new volunteer energy and led to the hiring of a new store manager. A follow-up general membership meeting vote keeps the business alive.

What’s next: The new manager, new directors and new volunteers are working toward a store redesign and relaunch.

The membership of the Vancouver Food Cooperative, invigorated by a flood of new volunteers and sales at the nonprofit downtown grocery store, has voted to keep at it.

At a housekeeping meeting on Tuesday night, 48 votes were cast against dissolution of the member-driven corporation. There were two abstentions and no votes in favor of dissolution, according to co-op board president Kirk Wright, who spoke to The Columbian on Wednesday. The meeting was held at the YWCA Clark County on Main Street.

“We’re on a good path,” Wright said. “I think everyone had a chance to be heard.” There were questions about financial details and plans, he said, but in the end the feeling was “really positive.”

The co-op’s store at 1002 Main St. has struggled this year to stay afloat in the face of insufficient sales and volunteerism, Wright has said. Earlier this year, a split board of directors endorsed a plan to dissolve the corporation and shut the store’s doors — but publicity about the crisis has resulted in a welcome flood of new energy and sales.

“I think the fire drill exercise of this crisis has drawn attention, but not necessarily in a bad way,” Wright said. “It would be easy for people to throw up their hands and say, ‘This is ridiculous,’ but I haven’t sensed that much at all.”

The store recently hired a new manager, Claire Ghormley, and added several new members to its board of directors. Ghormley is a veteran of retail startups in downtown Vancouver, and Wright said her ideas about revamping and relaunching the store “are not modest.”

The new board includes several prominent local names in business, political, neighborhood and “foodie” circles — including Eileen Cowen, former director of the now-defunct Urban Growers Market and a Hough Neighborhood Association leader; Temple Lentz, a political blogger and newly elected county freeholder; Port of Vancouver Commissioner Brian Wolfe; Tom Miewald, a returning board member and officer; Caleb Freeman; Thomas Lindsley; and Wright.

There’s also a new volunteer coordinator and a new treasurer, Wright said.

The co-op features local and organic foods including fresh produce, as well as coffee, snacks and toiletries. It is open to the public every day of the week, with varying hours.