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After Further Review, Mountain People’s Co-op to Stay Open

By Staff | Jul 15, 2008

Earlier this month, it appeared Mountain People’s Co-op grocery store was going to close after over 30 years of business.

The only grocery store located downtown specializes in local, organic and specialty diet foods. Business has been slow in recent years but the Co-op still maintains a small, very loyal, customer base. So an emergency meeting was called this week by employees, managers and store members to discuss the store’s future.

According to Ashley Keane, long-time employee and patron of Mountain People’s Market, a vote was held to determine whether the store should try and grind it out and get the business back on its feet, or file for chapter 7 and shut down for good. After a very vocal response from store members, Mountain People’s Market has decided to remain open. In order to begin the recovery process, people have been contributing in anyway they can, whether it’s a small donation or setting up fundraisers.

Despite the efforts of the loyal customers, the people working at the Co-op know things need to change in order for the business to survive. Keane, who has worked at the Co-op for over two years now, and has been shopping there her whole life, knows the problem can’t be fixed in a week because the problems didn’t happen overnight.

“It has been an accumulation of the past couple years. A few years ago we changed our management structure and hired a general manager and business consultants,” says Keane.

According to Keane, some of the advice they received ended up backfiring and some of the past managers were bad for the company.

Mountain People’s Market is also losing a lot of business to the more commercial grocery stores like Kroger and Giant Eagle, both of which are providing more organic products. But Keane believes the Co-op can provide things the major supermarkets cannot, such as quality products at cheap prices.   

The Co-op is able to provide high quality products because they use very little packaging, Keane said. At the Co-op you can purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables in town, free range meat and eggs, all while supporting local farmers.

But perhaps the organic market’s biggest problem is the misconceptions people have about it.

“People think we are just some hippie head shop or something,” says Keane. “Students walk by every day and see our purple building and they don’t really know what we are all about.”

Recently the Co-op has offered memberships to students for just $10 and has opened up a grab-and-go deli section, which has generated student interest.

Keane also believes that had the market shut down, people would only then start to realize how important the Co-op is. Not only does it support local farms, but it provides quality products that taste good, are good for you and good for the environment. Also, with extremely high gas prices, Keane said, it is important to have a grocery store downtown for people without cars, or those who simply can’t afford to drive to the nearest supermarket every time they need something.

Contact Michael at mhodgson@graffitiwv.com