Celebrating the Isla Vista Food Co-op’s 40th year in business will be that much sweeter this year after the beloved I.V. institution recently raised enough money to buy the building it’s occupied since 1980.
In just three short months, the co-op managed to raise $200,000 for a down payment, which will enable the business to close escrow and secure full ownership of the Seville Road property. The cooperative was in danger of losing its space after the property owner, Nhan Troung, chose to put the building up for sale.
The co-op plays a unique role in the Isla Vista as a provider of organic foods, an educator of sustainable practices, and a promoter of healthy living. The co-op is one of the few businesses that has managed to survive in the area for so many years. Isla Vista, which co-op General Manager Melissa Cohen described as a “transitory community,” often sees businesses come and go within a short amount of time.
Abby Wolff, a fourth year UCSB student who initiated the cooperative’s grassroots fundraising campaign, elaborated on the special role the grocery store plays in the area. “Forty years ago, UCSB students created a community-owned business to protect Isla Vista residents from corporate takeover and unethical business practices,” she said. “It has served this community as an educational resource for healthy lifestyles and activism ever since. It is a historical hub of conscious consumption, sustainable living, and ethical business for this vibrant and tight knit community.”
“The co-op is a ripple effect business,” Wolff went on, “where shoppers take values beyond their shopping experience out into the real world. For many students living without a car, this is their sole access to healthy, local, and organic food. The co-op donates money, space, and resources to many student and community initiatives as well, emphasizing the importance of mutual aid, community over chaos. As Isla Vista undergoes remodeling and gentrification, the I.V. Food Co-op will remain a relic of the funky beach-side town we know and love.”
The fundraising campaign consisted of 75 volunteers, mostly UCSB students, who organized a series of events that included a music festival, five course benefit dinner, dance tribe performance, and a “carrot mob,” according to Wolff.
Raising the $200,000 was somewhat of a daunting task, said Wolff, who expressed her gratitude for the amount of effort that was put into the campaign. “Staying optimistic was tough at times, especially when so many told us this was impossible,” she said. “But too many people have been touched by this place, and too much has happened here; there was no way this community was going to let it fall through the cracks.”
On February 10, there will be a public “grand re-opening” hosted at the co-op from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.