Kent Natural Food Co-op to expand

Ashley Sepanski

The Kent Natural Foods Co-op is expected to have automated registers, a wider selection of products and extended hours this year as a result of its newly elected board of trustees.

The nine-member board was elected at the end of July and has held two meetings since appointment. Board President Fred Pierre said previous meetings built the foundation for future changes.       

“We established our priorities for the next six months,” Pierre said. “We went over things like our budget, extending store hours, scheduling and labor issues.”      

The co-op, a community-owned, not-for-profit business, sells organic foods and products at its Main Street location in downtown Kent. The board of trustees is the first elected governing board since the co-op opened as a member-owned organization in 1993. Board Treasurer Mary Lang said the new board has organized the co-op’s goals and day-to-day business.      

“Now, we’re trying to automate our financial transactions,” Lang said. “We’re getting new, electronic-based hardware for our registers. We’re also working on expanding our product base. We want to improve to match downtown’s renovations.”

The board is in the process of establishing new store hours, Pierre said. The latest the co-op is open is 7 p.m. Wednesdays.

Lauren Yovanno, a senior fashion merchandising major who frequently shops at the store, said she would like to see longer store hours.

“I like the store because they have products that I can’t really get anywhere else,” Yovanno said. “I don’t get to shop there as often, though, because I have class, and I work and all these other things. If they stayed open longer, I’d be able to go there more.”

Pierre said longer store hours would also open the door to a wider range of products and more discounts for volunteers running the store. Volunteers currently receive an extra 20 percent discount if they work 20 hours a month.

Lang and Nancy Grim, board secretary and head of the personnel committee, respectively, also said the store is going to reach out to students to become members.

Co-op members automatically share ownership of the business and are allowed to contribute during meetings by submitting requests, among other actions, to improve the store.

A lifetime membership for a single person costs $45, and members get a 5 percent discount on all store items.

Lang expects a new proposal for annual membership to be discussed late December.

“We want college involvement,” Grim said. “We’re right across from Acorn Alley.”

“Co-ops have a higher community involvement,” Lang added. “The university is a part of our community. You wouldn’t be able to go into Acme and vote on an issue that you thought was important.”

Pierre said the co-op has around 1,600 members.

Aside from its Oct. 15 meeting, the next event at the natural food store will be an open house Dec. 12, Pierre said. The event is open to the public and will have food samples and information about how to use different organic products in meals.

“We want to focus on education,” Pierre said. “People can come in, anyone can shop here and ask any of our staff how to best use the products we sell. I think the message is: don’t be afraid to ask.”

Pierre said the board also plans to discuss acquiring a hand-held shelf tag scanner as well as potentially relocating the store’s cooler to provide more floor space.  

Contact Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].