Our Co-op was one of the many food co-ops begun in the 1970s that gave birth to and nurtured the market for natural food. Like most other consumer food co-ops, the Community Food Co-op began literally with nothing but the energy of the people involved.
For the first six months, the Co-op operated as a food buying club, with the support of PCC (Puget Consumers Co-op) in Seattle—itself a small co-op in those days.
The Co-op storefront opened its doors in 1970 in the Good Earth Building in the Fairhaven district with about 40 members. It operated with a volunteer staff and offered only eight items: cornmeal, bread, honey, flour, rolled wheat, rice, wheat germ, and granola.
Since then, the Co-op has moved twice from its original 900 square-foot store in Fairhaven: first, in 1982, to a 5,000 square-foot space at the corner of State and Maple streets and subsequently, in 1994, to our current 15,000 square-foot store at the corner of Forest and Holly streets.
Continued success over the next 10 years began to tax the limits of the store. Membership grew to more than 12,000 and, after several years of planning, the Co-op opened a second location in a 17,000 square-foot LEED-certified building in 2009 on the north edge of town in the Cordata neighborhood.
In 2015, the Co-op opened its third location directly across Holly Street from the downtown flagship store. The new location houses a bakery cafe with one of the best outdoor patios in downtown Bellingham, a dedicated bakery production kitchen, and a grand new classroom and community meeting room.
With the opening of the new Healthy Connections building, we said a fond farewell to the former building that had stood at the corner of Forest and Chestnut street and looked for ways to repurpose the reclaimed materials. The building had an interesting history, which you can read about here.
Creativity, hard work, and generosity have made the Co-op what it is.
We’ve come a long way since 1970. We’re a hub of our local community with 2016 membership hovering around 20,000, and continuously growing, and 250+ employees.
The world has changed a lot during the 45+ years we’ve been around. One thing hasn’t changed, however. That is the beauty of the concept: cooperation, mutual respect, good food, and a business based on people, not profit. Our Co-op and the food co-op movement have been a powerful part of positive social and lifestyle changes.
Everyone is always welcome at the Co-op! See you soon!
Origins of the Co-op Model
Consumer co-ops have been around since 1844 when a group of weavers in Rochdale, England, pooled their resources to create a business that operated for the benefit of the people who used it rather than for the economic gain of an individual or small group of owners.
There are many kinds of co-ops: food, agricultural, fishery, utilities, housing, and credit unions. There are health and social-care co-ops, worker-owned, and consumer-owned co-ops.