It's Our Party: Cooperatively Owned Good Foods Market & Café Celebrates Its 40th Birthday All Month Long

 Good Foods Market & Café turns 40 this month. Images from recent special events.

Good Foods Market & Café turns 40 this month. Images from recent special events.

I own it. My Best Man owns it. At least 5,548 other people own it, too. We own it cooperatively, this successful grocery and café enterprise called Good Foods Market and Café (one of Savoring Kentucky's treasured sponsors.) Thanks to the incredible staff, we have several ways of celebrating:

  • Harvest Sampling Saturday – October 6, 11 am – 2 pm. Music 11:30 am – 1:30 pm by Michael Fogler. Sampling Saturdays offer opportunities to try new foods and meet the all-important people who produce our food. Careful: you may end up with new items on your plate. Hello, Blue Sky Shiitake, which I tasted for the first time about two months ago, and now must have each time I visit the store.You, too, Bill Sanders First Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Co-ops Rock! Co-op Education Fair – October 13, 11 am – 2 pm. Celebrate the cooperative spirit and meet other local co-ops working to make our community a better place. Music 11:30 am – 1:30 pm by Jerome Lange.
  • Happy 40th Anniversary: Cake Time! – October 20, 1 – 4 pm. What does such an important birthday deserve? Free birthday cake, coffee, cider, music, and giveaways.

Savoring Kentucky congratulates Good Foods on its excellent physical and fiscal health as it reaches this important milestone. Long-time General Manager Anne Hopkins says roughly 1,000 coops launched within a few years of Good Foods Co-op's birth as a buying club in November, 1972. About 200 coops remain in business today. National Cooperative Grocers Association, a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops, including Good Foods, says it includes "128 food co-ops operating 165 stores in 35 states with combined annual sales of over $1.4 billion and over 1.3 million consumer-owners." Those are big business numbers, considering the humble origins of many of the co-0ps.

Good Foods has enjoyed extended periods of good leadership, particularly during the administration of the steady, wise, kind, current General Manager, Anne Hopkins. In addition to all those sober characteristics, I must add that she loves costumes and laughter and fun. Her guidance and patience helped stabilize Good Foods at two crucial periods: after a move from a disastrous location to the present set of buildings, and again when she returned to management after the store faltered while she tried private sector work for a time. Thank you, Anne.

I joined Good Foods when it was a buying club, sometime between its founding late in 1972 and August, 1973, when I left for my grand Peace Corps adventure in the lovely Philippine Islands. By the time I came home two years later, Good Foods had a storefront, its second. The Good Foods website presents a good history of key moves and decisions leading to the present store and cooperative organization.

My idiosyncratic list of key moments in Good Foods store and organizational history:

  • Each move: Short Street, Ashland, Woodhill, Southland Drive
  • The end of the work requirement
  • Changing the no-sugar policy, which meant that foods for sale could contain sugar (though other substances, such as trans-fats, are not allowed)
  • The first sales of meat
  • Opening the store to non-members
  • The year annual sales first topped $1 Million (they are now more than $10.2 Million annually)
  • Anne Hopkins agreeing to move from board to staff, and into management
  • Adding a café
  • Creating an explicit cooperative ownership structure
  • Having sales flourish at each point when credible competitors have opened stores that might taken customers and sales from Good Foods
  • Danielle Dove's arrival as Marketing Manager
  • Alex Jenkins's arrival as Chef
  • Owner numbers topping 5,000
  • Recent renovations completed
  • The explicit focus on local producers and commitment to participate in strengthening a resilient local food system

Going forward, Good Foods now sits at the grownup tables in our community and region, playing an increasingly important role in efforts to improve our community's health and forge a new, sustainable food production and distribution system. My birthday wish for all of us who make up Good Foods: in meeting the challenges and opportunities of the next 40 years, may we continue to benefit from the selfless, tireless, inspired leadership and clarity of purpose so many board and staff members have demonstrated during the first 40. Birthday hats and cake for all!

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