If things go according to the Isla Vista Food Co-op’s plans, the first week of January 2013 will be one heck of a celebration — not only will the Co-op celebrate its 40th anniversary, but it will also close escrow on its building and no longer be a renter.
A month ago Co-op GM Melissa Cohen received an email from property owner Nhan Troung, saying she wanted to sell and give the Co-op first shot at the building, where the I.V. institution has been since 1980. “It’ll be $1.6 million,” Cohen said during a recent interview. “Although the Co-op is doing really well, we don’t have 1.6 million.” That gives them 30 days to raise the approximately $400,000 for a down payment.
“The community started it, the community benefits from it, and the community should maintain it,” Cohen asserted. Therefore she kicked off “Project: We Own It!,” a kick-starter-style attempt to raise the funds necessary to buy the building. “It’s more about heartstrings — even if you don’t shop at the Co-op there’s so much education that goes on here,” Cohen explained. “It’s not about saving the Co-op [which at the worst has a lease until December 2013]; it’s about long live the Co-op. It’s not about identifying one or two primary funders; it’s about telling everyone they can be a part of it. I want someone who feels they love this place a lot, who can only give five dollars, that they can do that.”
Cohen stressed the positive effects the Co-op has created in its nearly four decades, from being one of the first area commercial customers for local organic farms to its educative function. “It’s a ripple effect business because I.V. is a transitory community,” she explained. “Thousands of people have shopped here, learning how to shop like this for organic products and learning simple things like you can put different produce in the same bag or use no bag at all. For one example, David Wolfe, one of the leaders of the raw food movement, lived in I.V. and learned to shop here.”
The Co-op will be providing a series of informative meetings—the first was October 15—about the process. For more details, see the Co-op’s Facebook page or the project page at where Cohen hopes to prove that “little drops filling a giant bucket, that’s what we’re going to do.”