Co-Opportunity Market — Los Angeles’ only brick-and-mortar organic food cooperative — announced the closure of its Culver City location late last month.

The store officially closed on March 29. Co-Opportunity’s original Santa Monica location, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, will remain open.

Cooperatives are common in some other US cities like Seattle or Minneapolis, but not LA. Food co-ops, like Co-Opportunity, follow a cooperative framework in which customers collectively own a store. As a result, food co-ops typically carry more organic and health food options and are curated to the needs of the specific communities they are located in.

“When we opened in 2016, we planned and expected to grow into a cooperative natural foods store in a vital community,” Co-Opportunity said in an Instagram post announcing the closure. “Unfortunately, we have struggled to meet sales expectations for many years.”

Co-Opportunity is currently the only operating food co-op in LA County with a storefront. With the closure of its Culver City location, LA now only has one brick-and-mortar cooperative market. 

Beverlywood resident Matt Klauschie had been frequenting Co-Opportunity’s Culver City location for the past two years, as the store was conveniently located above his place of exercise. 

“Partly, it was just convenience, but I would say the biggest thing that stood out to me about the market [was] just the employees there,” Klauschie said. “Each time I went there they were just really friendly. There was a gentleman in the produce section who every morning would brighten my day.”

Klauschie also noted that the market had a more diverse selection of foods you wouldn’t be able to get at a traditional grocery store like certain protein powders, vitamins, and bulk items for lentils, rice, and beans. Still, Klauschie says that the closure did not come as a surprise, remarking on the overall lack of foot traffic in the store each time he was there.

Ann Gentry, President of the Board of Directors of the Co-Opportunity Cooperative, also said that the Culver City location took a hit due to the pandemic. It was then that the board in collaboration with the store’s general manager began to consider potentially closing the location. According to Gentry, the addition of a bus lane outside of the store prior to the pandemic had already harmed the coop by making parking for customers much more difficult.

“The big picture is that how people shop has drastically changed,” Gentry added. “The pandemic really hit it home: the younger generation is shopping for the food that they’re eating that day; people aren’t coming in and filling up a grocery cart once a week. And people are not just [shopping at] one store that they stay true to, they’re moving around.”

Still, Co-Opportunity’s Santa Monica location has remained resilient. Gentry says that some employees from the former Culver City location have been able to take available positions at the Santa Monica store.

In LA, competition in the healthy and natural foods industry has certainly grown stiff since the Co-Opportunity was founded in the 70s. Now, customers can choose from a variety of corporate stores like Sprouts, Erewhon, and Whole Foods which all offer similar inventories to the food coop. With the closure of its Culver City location, Gentry says that Co-Opportunity has had to examine how it can best fulfill the needs of the communities it sets up shop in, and how it can maintain itself in a very competitive environment.

“I think that the cooperative model is an incredible model, but I think most people don’t really understand what it is. So I think that co-ops are struggling around issues of their identity in today’s economic market for sure,” Gentry said. “What we know about food co-ops is that they resonate more strongly in smaller communities than in a big bustling metropolitan like LA.”

Amber X. Chen is a freelance journalist from Southern California whose work focuses on environmental justice.

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