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Portland Co-Op to Close after 50 Years

After struggling to stay afloat, Oregon's Food Front hit by store leadership resignations
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Food Front in Portland stocked a variety of locally grown produce and other items sourced from nearby vendors.

The cooperative grocer Food Front is shuttering its store in Portland, Ore., after 50 years in the community, at least temporarily. The closing was revealed in a letter from the board of directors posted on the co-op’s website.

In the letter, board members explained that the resignation of the general manager, along with a bleak financial situation, spurred the decision to shut down on April 24 at noon. “Based on both our bylaws and the collective bargaining agreement with Union Local 555, Food Front does not have a path forward without a general manager,” they wrote, adding that they, too, are collectively stepping down from their roles.

That said, the letter noted that the board positions remain open to co-op members and that the store could reopen with new financing and restructuring. They shared options such as updating the bylaws to consider a worker-owned operation with member volunteers or selling the property with an option to lease.

A permanent closing could be another outcome, directors conceded. In that case, the building and property could be sold, with any remaining earnings divided among the membership. “This decision has been incredibly difficult and a long time coming. All of us on the board are part of this community, and we will continue to do what we can to support Food Front in its path forward,” the letter concluded.

The union representing store workers released its own statement. “Despite the grim outlook, it is the union’s belief that the store can pivot back to profitability and continue to be a vital community resource with new leadership,” contended Tigard, Ore.-based United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555

Food Front opened in Portland’s Nob Hill neighborhood in 1972. Located at 2375 NW Thurman Street, the co-op offered fresh produce, deli items, fresh meat and seafood, cheese, bulk food, grocery essentials, and wine and beer, in addition to an array of health- and-wellness items.  The team regularly spotlighted its local vendor partners and offered classes on nutrition, wellness and other topics.

This is the latest in a string of retail closings in Portland, a city that has been in the spotlight for rising crime and other issues.  Earlier this year, Green Zebra pulled up stakes in the city, closing all three of its locations at the end of March.  Walmart has also ceased operations at two stores in Portland, citing underperformance. 

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