Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sac Natural Foods Co-op to close Elk Grove store

I was sad to learn that the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is closing its Elk Grove store at the end of January. I found out while shopping there in the first week of the new year that the Board of Directors had voted at its January 2 meeting to assign the store's lease to a new grocery store, Grocery Outlet. The Co-op has held several public meetings over the past week for shoppers and Co-op owners to attend and learn about this decision. The first two were on the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday at the Elk Grove and Sacramento store locations, respectively. The last meeting was yesterday, Saturday afternoon at the Elk Grove store.

I went to the first meeting last Tuesday night not only because I'm an owner of the Co-op, but also because I was curious how such a beautiful store with great product and amazing staff could be closing after only 18 months of operation.

The meeting was much more than just a presentation by the Board of Directors. There were about 40 owners and a few shoppers there and we all sat in chairs in a large circle. It was actually quite personal and everyone had a chance to say what they were feeling and to ask any questions. In addition to the Board members there were several employees there who had invested quite a bit of their lives in the Co-op and the principles it stands for. Many of those present were quite emotional when they talked about what the store means to them. I'm sad to see it go because not only is the food they sell superb, but the entire staff is knowledgeable and clearly passionate about the ideals behind the Co-op. I always left the store with a positive feeling.

The Board went through a summary of the reasons they had thought a store in Elk Grove would work, the multiple marketing studies done to analyze possible locations, and the extensive community outreach and advertising that was done to promote the Co-op to Elk Grove. Employees even took wage and benefit reductions to reduce expenses. Everything that could have been done was done. The sad truth appears to be that there simply wasn't enough time to build a sufficient customer base who came in on a consistent basis to make the store profitable.

Even though it is sad and disappointing to see the store close, some good will still come out of having built and opened it. The building itself is the most environmentally "green" in Elk Grove and maybe in Sacramento, from having energy efficient cooling, heating, lighting and refrigeration to using recycled and natural materials throughout the structure. Hopefully that building along with some of the Co-op's principles of sustainable grocery practices and cooperative community support and involvement are new seeds that will germinate and spread new ideas about being mutually beneficial and responsible consumers and community participants.

P.S. -- mention was made of a final celebration, likely to occur near the end of January, so keep your ears open and I'll post any info I find out. Also, inventory is being cleared over the next several weeks, so there may be some good bargains to be had.

[UPDATE - THURSDAY, 1/18] I went to the Elk Grove store last night and apparently there has been a 20% off sale all this week. The store was mostly empty, and all of the fresh/perishable food areas (deli, dairy, meats & seafood, produce) were already cleaned and closed. I'd say there was about 20-30% of the store's product remaining. It was slim pickins, but if you're looking for some frozen goods (including a number of turkeys!?), beer/wine, dry goods or other non-perishable groceries it may be worth your while to browse what's left.


E-Doo said...

You have to think twice about letting a bunch of hippies run your business -- it just doesn't work.

But seriously, it sucks when a good store closes. How many stores are there in the Sac Co-Op group? Was it just this one store that underperformed?

Kevin said...

You'd be surprised, Eric. I have not been to a Board of Directors meeting, but from what I saw at the meeting I went to, the Board had and has been very organized and thorough about running the business. Handouts were available showing project timelines, budgets, income statements and cost projections related to the Elk Grove store.

While the feel of the meeting was not "corporate" I believe the Board has the same or similar duties to Co-op owners as a corporate board has to its shareholders.

The original Sac Natural Foods Co-op store is on Alhambra and is apparently very financially stable and secure. The Elk Grove store was the only other store run by the Sac Co-op group.

E-Doo said...

The only co-op experience I've had was the food co-op in Davis. I had a girlfriend there MANY years ago and she worked at a clinic next door. I think that one closed down, too. I liked the choice of stuff there. It was a good experience.

e-doo said...

Listen, man, I love the hippies, too, with all the free love, etc. But you can't pay your employees with hemp and stock 40 variants of granola -- it's just not fiscally sound.

e-doo said...

Sorry for posting so much, but I read through your post again, and have to say that it hints at a deeper truth. All joking aside, it just seems like total CRAP seems to do ok now-a-days. On TV, shows like Arrested Development get canceled while American Idol is on top. Josh and Mauriah introduced Katherine and I to a nice Cuban restuarant downtown that had EXCELLENT food and spirits and it went out of business so that the shitty restaurant next door could expand into its spot. It seems to be the way of the world.

Kevin said...

Hey, don't ever apologize for posting here, I appreciate it.

I'm glad you saw one of the things I was indirectly talking about with the post. New ideas, whether a different way of thinking or a different type of restaurant or food, often suffer at the hands of established habits or being outside of people's comfort zones. Sometimes things are maybe ahead of their time.

With respect to TV, I think it's laughable how intelligent and funny shows like Arrested Development are dropped in favor of mindless sitcoms or reality shows. That being said, I love the American Idol auditions -- I just cannot stop watching the tone-deaf and clueless people who seem to have no idea they have zero singing ability. I am shocked and amused at the same time.

Kevin said...

FYI, I'm pretty sure the Davis Food Co-op is still in business. I've been there within the last year.

... and they only had 35 variants of granola. Maybe there's a "granola equilibrium" that the Elk Grove store just didn't find in time. :-P