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Central Co-op Celebrates Four Decades of Community Impact
[October 11, 2018]

Central Co-op Celebrates Four Decades of Community Impact

On Saturday, October 13 Central Co-op will begin a week-long celebration of its 40th birthday, marking four decades of serving its members and community. Originally founded on Capitol Hill in Seattle as a consumer-co-op, Central first opened its doors on October 16, 1978. Today, the Co-op is 14,200 members strong, supporting more than 120 employees, 400 Washington producers, 150 community organizations and 12,000 shoppers per week in Seattle. The Co-op will be opening a new store in Tacoma in the coming months.

To celebrate 40 years in the community, Central Co-op will have special events and discounts in the store from Saturday the 13th through Saturday the 20th. Highlights of the week will include: baby goats in front of the Seattle store on October 13 along with 20% off all cheese. The following day the Co-op will host a Fall Celebration with the La Paloma Artisan Market (and baby goats) in the parking lot of the future Tacoma store, and all supplements and body-care will be 20% off in the Seattle store. The discounts will continue throughout the week - ending with 20% off all chocolate on Saturday, October 20.

"Over the course of the week we plan to celebrate not only the members who make up our in-store community, but also the larger co-op community including the wonderful Washington producers who support us," said Garland McQueen, Central Co-op CEO. "Every day of the eight-day anniversary celebration at the Co-op will feature product-samples in the store - with many of our producers coming in over the course of the week to share their products."

Central Co-op was born out of the vision, hard work, and determination of its founding members in Seattle and Tacoma. Central Co-op's guiding principles have resulted in high wages and benefits as well as the recent conversion by owner vote to make it a rare instance of a single class cooperative grocery converting to a solidarity model by creating a separate but equal class of worker owners. At the end of 2015, Central Co-op merged with the Tacoma Food Co-op.

Central Co-op also became the first grocery store in the nation to pay better than $15/hour with full benefits at entry-level in early 2015. As part of its commitment to workers, Central Co-op doubles the percentage spent on wages and benefits relative to a conventional grocery store chain, with 92 percent of employees eigible for benefits. Today, the Co-op pays almost $17/hr at entry-level and has an average hourly wage of $22.19.

"We have grown and continued to thrive over the decades thanks to the participation of thousands and thousands of people who have joined in our collective-efforts," McQueen said. "They have become owners, running for and serving on our Board of Trustees, working to keep our shelves stocked, and investing to keep our community effort strong for future generations."

Central Co-op's concern for community has been an important part of the organization's decision-making process for the past 40 years. The organization will extend the same mission to its new store in Tacoma. The Tacoma store is currently under construction and, when complete, will include a fresh deli, fresh meat and seafood, a large bulk section and a community room. Central Co-op has become a small, but powerful economic engine for the region, circulating nearly four times as much money in the local economy compared to a typical co-op grocery store and more than seven times that of a conventional grocery chain, according to a 2017 report by Civic Economics.

In line with the co-op's mission to support the local community, Civic Economics found 20 percent of revenue spent at Central Co-op went to goods purchased in Washington State. This compares to 12 percent of goods from the region for a traditional co-op and 4 percent of goods from a grocery chain. This recirculation creates revenues that are used to build and support the roads, schools, bridges, and libraries that make Seattle the vibrant community that it is today.

In 2017, the co-op gave $25,000 in need-based discounts to customers, and donated about 20,000 pounds of food to local food distribution agencies. In addition, Central Co-op customers "Rounded Up" more than $49,600 at the register for food banks and other causes, and gave more than $35,000 in support of 155 local community organizations in 2017.

To learn more about the week of discounts and other 40th birthday celebrations visit Central Co-op's website: here.

About Central Co-op

Originally founded on Seattle's Capitol Hill in 1978, Central Co-op is a community-owned natural foods cooperative. A complete grocery store dedicated to sustainable practices and the Washington food economy, Central Co-op features organic produce, humanely raised meat and wild seafood, a large selection of bulk goods and herbs, an extensive health and wellness section and unique gifts. Through their Co-op Basics program, the Co-op offers over 250 everyday items at especially low prices, and offers 10% off to those receiving government assistance twice a week, through their Healthy Community Program. Central Co-op follows a solidarity model with both worker and consumer ownership. Open to everyone, seven days a week, Central Co-op has more than 14,500 active owners, and in January of 2015 became the first grocery store in the nation to pay better than $15/hour at entry level with full benefits for full time workers. Merged with the Tacoma Food Co-op in fiscal year 2016, Central Co-op is working to open a new location on N. Pearl St. in Tacoma. More information is available at

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