Today, the Board of Directors and interim general manager announced in a joint statement that the Mountain View Market Co+op would be closing by the end of 2020. Here is the statement from Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, Corinne Whitmill:
History of the Co-op
Mountain View Market Co+op opened and operated during a time that witnessed enormous national change in terms of grocery shopping. Starting in the 1970s, increasing numbers of people began to look for organic, natural, and local foods. In response, food co-ops sprung up all over the U.S. to provide their members with the natural foods and services that conventional grocery stores were unable to offer.
In this spirit, Mountain View Market Co+op first opened its doors to the public as the Organ Mountain Co-operative in 1975, at first operating out of a home on Foster Road in Las Cruces. In the early days, the co-op was the city's only resource for "hippy" foods like brown rice and Celestial Seasonings teas. As the co-op grew in popularity, it grew in size. It moved to several locations over the years before settling in its present location in the Idaho Crossings Shopping Plaza in 1994. It expanded once more to add a full kitchen and café and moved the retail operation into the adjoining suite.
Over the years, it became a hub for the community. It offered health and wellness advice, classes on nutrition, and numerous annual events. Recent yearly events included the Block Party held at the end of summer. The Meet Your Maker events brought together community members and local growers who sold their goods at the co-op. For a few years, the co-op also maintained a farm on Snow Road in Mesilla. The farm provided organically grown produce for the store and education for the community about growing food organically and with a minimal environmental impact. The co-op also operated a small café in downtown Las Cruces that provided residents and workers with fresh and healthy lunch choices.
Difficulties in Recent Years
For years, Mountain View Market Co+op was a one-stop-shop for local and organically grown groceries. It was the only place in town where shoppers could find these specialty foods. However, as national interest in natural and organic foods grew, so too did the competition. 2014 saw the opening of Natural Grocers which created a direct competitor and began to divert sales away from the co-op. In response, the co-op launched a capital campaign loan in 2014. It asked its members to loan money to the co-operative to refresh and improve the store to compete more effectively in the growing natural foods market. A remodel followed, including the extremely popular salad and hot bar.
Competitors nevertheless kept coming. Big box retailers, conventional grocery stores, and even convenience stores started selling the same products that were once exclusively available at Mountain View Market Co+op. National chains had a buying power that the co-op did not.
As a result, beginning in 2014, store sales began to fall. In the following years, the co-op lost millions in potential revenue due to this ever-growing local competition. The store sold the farm. It also closed the downtown café and reduced the staff it employed at the main location at Idaho and El Paseo. The neighborhood also began to suffer from more empty storefronts and a decrease in traffic. The store began to require more costly repairs to remain up to code. The cost of goods continued to rise as store sales continued to fall.
As a result of this complex combination of issues, the co-op is no longer generating enough income to stay in business. It cannot afford to repay the capital loan and has begun to default in payments to vendors. It has been operating at a loss for years and has crossed the tipping point of being able to stay open.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further impacted the co-op through supply chain breakdowns, product availability issues, and a reduction in shoppers. In response to the state's mandate relating to foodservice, the co-op had to shut down its popular salad and hot bar. That closure resulted in the suspension of the popular Three Dollar Dinner served on Thursday evenings, which had been providing hundreds of community members with a home-cooked meal at an affordable price every week. The co-op served hundreds of these meals weekly. With all of these hardships, the store simply can no longer sustain itself.
Making a Tough Choice
The Board of Directors and the interim general manager met with co-op owners on Saturday, November 21, 2020, in a virtual meeting to announce the decision to close down the store.
The store will begin liquidating its assets in a storewide sale. The sale will run from Tuesday, December 1 through Saturday, December 5, and will end early if the store runs out of merchandise and fixtures before the 4th. Information regarding the sale will be available on the store's website at www.mountainview.coop.
End of an Era
The business model of a co-op is quite different from that of most businesses. Instead of having one owner or a group of investors, a co-op is owned by its community. It exists to serve the needs of its owners. In recent years, the co-op had an ownership of about 3,000 individuals and families. Food co-ops across the country face hardships as the products and services that were once unique to them are now ubiquitous.
The co-op will be laying off nineteen employees with its closure, all of whom will be given a severance check for compensation. They will also receive health insurance benefits until the store's closure is completed.
Mountain View Market Co+op has served the Mesilla Valley for 45 years, and it is with a heavy heart that its Board of Directors and management team have made the difficult decision that it must close.