The Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, called by some a “local treasure,” is closing its Silver Spring grocery Friday after years of financial losses.
The co-op, with almost 8,000 members, carries everything from organically grown and other local produce to chocolate bars, pinto beans, meatless burgers and soy milk.
After 51 profitable months and 89 months of losses, the co-op’s board decided to close the Silver Spring location at 8309 Grubb Road.
Fiscal 2013 was a “mixed bag with the Takoma Park store a continuing success and the Silver Spring store a disappointment,” according to a financial report.
Sales in the Takoma Park store reached $7.8 million in fiscal ’13, while Silver Spring sales totaled $3.0 million.
Store representatives said the decision comes with great sadness and careful consideration.
Since the co-op opened in 2001, it “has never had a profitable year,” said Marilyn Berger, its human resources manager.
The co-op tried “all kind of things,” including hiring a consultant to improve stocking procedures and working on additional outreach, she said.
“And it just didn’t work. ... It came a time [that] we just had to face the reality of the situation,” Berger said.
The co-op will be offering positions to Silver Spring employees in the Takoma Park store, but there will definitely be some layoffs, she said.
“We are going to include as many people as possible,” Berger said. She said she could not say how many employees will be affected.
Loyal members will miss the store. Some shopped there because of the convenience of having an organic food store within walking distance from home. Others shopped there because of the natural vitamins and fair trade products.
“We are saddened by the co-op’s decision to close the Silver Spring store. We wish more alternatives were discussed, such as a scaled-back store with fewer hours,” said member Mary Griffin of Silver Spring.
A lifetime membership costs $100, which provides access to co-op locations, weekly specials, discounts and the opportunity to vote or run for the co-op board.
Griffin said there were many loyal members in the Silver Spring store, but “apparently that wasn’t enough.”
Co-op representatives said continuing to keep the grocery store open could expose the entire organization to an unacceptable financial risk.
Berger invited costumers to shop at the Takoma Park store at 204 Ethan Allen Ave., 3 miles from the Silver Spring location.
“We are bringing over [customers’] favorite products,” she said.
The board recognizes that shutting the co-op’s door is a “loss for our community” and customers could not agree more.
“It is pretty sad that the neighborhood is losing a friend and a local treasure,” Griffin said.
Board member Mark Hersh, a manager at the Silver Spring store for almost five years, said he is disappointed by the news.
“Unfortunately as a volunteer, there is only so much a board can do,” Hersh said.
But there may be hope for Griffin and other Silver Spring members: Hersch is now trying to spark enough community interest to open a new Silver Spring food co-op.
The first step is to get a number of people who want to be involved in opening a co-op and then “we choose a group to become board members, and once that happens we move into financing.”
Hersh’s efforts are not affiliated with the current co-op and he does not speak on behalf of the board. He said he will wait to gather enough feedback from the community to decide whether he will pursue a new Silver Spring co-op.
“A lot of the regular customers have come to me with a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.