Midtown Food Co-op Closes 

Natural-foods store ends three-year run.

What once housed frozen veggie burgers, organic produce, and soy cheese will soon be home to age-old lamps and other antique decor. The Midtown Food Co-op, the city's only health-food cooperative, closed its doors July 25th after three years. An antiques store will take its place at the 2158 Central Avenue location.

The Midtown Food Co-op, which was owned and operated by its members, specialized in natural foods and health products. Members paid $25 per year to shop there and receive membership discounts. At its closing, the store had 500 members.

"We just didn't have enough money to keep it running because we didn't have enough support," said Casey Bryant, former manager of the co-op. "What's confusing is if 500 members spent $10 a week at the co-op, we would have had way more money than we needed to keep it open. But members just weren't shopping at the co-op."

Bryant also blamed some of the co-op's business practices. She said the store should have done more profit analysis and kept better track of inventory. She also suggested that they could have slightly raised prices and lowered the membership discount. These same suggestions were brought up by a board member two years ago but were quickly rejected by others on the board.

Bryant said the store was $80,000 in debt to various vendors and to the state for sales tax. Funds raised at a July 16th benefit for the co-op were used to pay off some of the debt. The benefit was intended to raise money to keep the store open.

Bryant and a few former members are planning on starting a buyer's club, which she says is like a co-op without the storefront. Members place orders through catalogs of socially conscious food vendors.

"People like big, clean pretty Wal-Mart-style stores. They think bigger is better," said Bryant. "People would always tell me they'd get better deals at Square Foods or Wild Oats, when their prices were really about the same as ours."

E-mail: bphillips@memphisflyer.com

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