Combining our cooperative efforts: Central Co-op and Tacoma Food Co-op explore joining forces!

We are pleased to announce an exciting possibilty that our Board of Trustees has been exploring. It is a possibility that could help us grow our impact as a community, strengthen our regional food system, and support our cooperative economy.

The BIG NEWS is that, after several weeks of initial discussion and collaboration the boards of Central Co-op and Tacoma Food Co-op are engaged in formal dialogue that could lead to a membership vote that would authorize the board to consider whether or not to accept a merger proposal.

This exploration emerged from conversations between the two co-ops concerning the increasingly competitive natural grocery landscape and our future. These discussions led to the idea of our co-ops joining forces. After consulting with local stakeholder groups and with experts in cooperative business and the natural grocery industry, the boards of both co-ops believe uniting our organizations could be beneficial for both communities.

As a community-owned business, we believe that people are stronger when they act together. Central Co-op and Tacoma Food Co-op share the same values and the same vision for a sustainable food system and a cooperative economy. The world of natural foods is increasingly competitive and if we combine our efforts together both stores will be much better positioned to thrive going forward. This will mean more good jobs, community ownership and local control.

Dean DeCrease, Central Co-op Board President

Our organizations are already deeply aligned in our long-term visions for a local cooperative economy, our dedication to sustainability and product guidelines, and in our commitment to providing (and growing) great-quality jobs.

Tacoma Food Co-op

(2,300+ members)

Central Co-op

(13,400+ members)

  • Terrific growth potential in a currently
    under-served market
  • Limited financial resources
  • Robust cooperative culture
  • Dedicated and talented staff
  • Limited administrative support
  • Forward-thinking Board of Trustees
  • Strong financial position
  • Rooted in a growing, competitive market
  • Limited growth opportunities at current site
  • Depth of management and strategic talent
  • Strong connections with local cooperatives
  • Forward-thinking Board of Trustees


Both boards are working to prepare our organizations for emerging challenges and opportunities and believe that merging may be the best option available for either cooperative in this work. Please keep a look-out for updates and opportunities to learn more about this process and a potential special election.

Since we were created democratically by Tacomans in 2006 and opened our doors in 2011, Tacoma Food Co-op has worked to fulfill our member-owners vision of a model cooperative market in a sustainable food system. However as a young organization in an increasingly competitive environment, our ability to give our member-owners and community everything they have envisioned all along is limited.  This merger will allow our local co-op to leapfrog more than a decade into the future, providing the healthy and essential goods, classes, and community building Tacomans want and need, honoring the hard work of hundreds of cooperators by realizing the local co-op they dreamed of.

Jeff Bessmer, Tacoma Food Co-op General Manager

A Tale of Two Co-ops: People's Food Co-op

Two food co-ops in the Midwest underwent their own merger in 2012. Watch Michelle Schry, General Manager, talk about the engagement, the participation, and the support that poured from both communities.


But wait, there’s more!

While the potential of bringing our co-op communities together is very exciting in its own right, our Board is also exploring the possibility of forwarding a plan to the owners that would introduce an employee-owner class to our structure, along with strengthening our ability to raise capital. You will receive more information about this process, and your role in it, in the coming weeks.

The Board will be holding an information session about these explorations for owners at 2pm on Saturday, November 21. If you are interested in attending, please send an email with your name and owner number to:

In cooperation,
Central Co-op


Press & Further Details

Central Co-op may merge with Tacoma store Seattle Times
Central Co-op considers merger with Tacoma store Puget Sound Business Journal
Central Co-op to expand south with proposed Tacoma merger Capitol Hill Seattle Blog
Central Co-op exploring merger with Tacoma store Capitol Hill Times
Tacoma, Seattle food co-ops explore merger Tacoma News Tribune

Date: Tuesday November 17, 2015

Category: Co-ops

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