Kent Natural Food Co-Op makes $7K improvements

Kelsey Henninger

Store renovations spruce up downtown

A new floor is just one part of the renovations at the Kent Natural Foods Co-Op, which raised nearly $7,000 for improvements to the Main Street store. Leslie L. Cusano | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent Natural Foods Co-Op is renovating its store in an effort to help with the revitalization effort of downtown Kent.

“Main Street is trying to improve, and a lot of investment is coming to downtown,” said Rick Hawksley, city council-member-at-large and former president of the co-op. “Any improvement helps motivate others to improve.”

The store raised approximately $7,000 for renovations, which mostly came from members’ donations, said Hawksley, who is the master of planning and fundrasing for the renovations.

The money is going toward organizational and cosmetic plans, Hawksley added.

Renovations include a new awning, a new floor, new paint and an upgraded register system. The new sales system will include bar codes, a touch-screen and a scale. The new system is comparable to other grocery stores.

The co-op was motivated by Main Street Kent’s effort for shops to clean up the exteriors of their stores and members’ surveys describing the changes they would like to see.

Hawksley said he sees other opportunities for the food co-op to expand.

“There is an interest in downtown and organic food, and with its long history (the renovations) can help the store become more substantial,” he said.

The co-op isn’t the first downtown establishment to undergo renovations. For example, Bob Mayfair, owner of Black Squirrel Gallery, renovated his store when he moved in February 2007.

“Any time you update, it’s going to be good. A good chunk of the renovations were specifically for our business to make the space work for us,” Mayfair said. “And overall, I think for the fa‡ade improvement, it just makes downtown look better.

“And whenever you start these things, other businesses will follow in painting and fixing up the fronts of their businesses. People see how nice it looks and then they want to do the same with their businesses.”

Mayfair thinks the appearances of other businesses helps his business as well.

“As we improve downtown Kent, as it looks better and as we get more businesses down here, our trading area for all of downtown will expand,” Mayfair said.ÿ

Heidi Shaffer, Ward 5 councilwoman and an active member of the food co-op involved in the fundraising campaign, said one of the reasons for the renovations was to serve the community and improve downtown.

“I’m an involved member because I want it to be a better place to shop, and I believe in supporting the revitalization of downtown,” she said. “We need to expand, be more efficient and create better profit to achieve this.”

Members of the co-op made the renovations.

“That’s what makes a good co-op,” said produce manager Jeff Ingram, “a lot of volunteers getting together and chipping in.”

The co-op wanted to raise $48,000 so larger renovations could be made. Plans to take out the walk-in cooler and the office to create another 200 feet of display space are still in the works, members said.

“I hope once people see how efficient we are with these renovations they will step forward and give us the funds to complete the renovations,” Ingram said.

ÿIngram’s future goals consist of a community garden where the store will sell the food it grows. He would also like to see a processing facility where the co-op will process food from area farms and sell the goods.

Ingram said the co-op is creating a “green economy” because the improvements help create jobs for downtown.

Member and employee Fred Pierre said it’s the most exciting thing in 10 years at the co-op.

“When people come in next month, they will see a totally transformed store,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporters Kelsey Henninger at [email protected] and Christina Thomas at cthoma6kentedu.