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Facing closure, Riverwest Co-op reaches out for support

The grocery offerings at Riverwest Co-op, which is currently staring down another tough financial situation.
Riverwest Co-op / Instagram
The grocery offerings at Riverwest Co-op, which is currently staring down another tough financial situation.

The Riverwest Co-op received some bad news recently with the rejection of a $150,000 loan application needed to keep the grocery store / café afloat. Staring down a financial situation that could shut its doors within a month, the longtime source of locally sourced and organic food has pivoted to an approach that includes reaching out to its community for help.

The most visible face of the co-op’s current situation is the GoFundMe campaign started a few days ago that seeks to raise at least $50,000 for day-to-day operations. The proceeds from the campaign will essentially buy time for the co-op to pursue two other measures:

  1. Reducing hours and services in the near term
  2. Adjusting its revitalization plan to include smaller loans and invest the funds raised

The co-op’s board of directors mixed bad news with good in explaining the situation on the GoFundMe page, which as of this writing had raised a little more than $6,000:

The coming weeks will be very difficult, with discussions about reducing payroll expenses and possibly closing the Co-op. That said, we have reason for optimism. Our November 2023 gross profit percentage improved dramatically from prior months due to pricing structure adjustments. Our café sales also increased 64% from the same time last year. These developments imply that our revitalization plan can work if we have enough financial capacity to put it in place. 

Donations from the campaign are meant to address that capacity, ensuring it can continue as a resource to the neighborhood and wider community. The co-op has filled that role since its opening in November 2001, taking over a former Schlitz tied house on the corner of Clarke and Fratney streets. Three years later, it added a café that could play a role in the current situation.

The board suggested a few ways to support the co-op besides (or in addition to) the donation effort, including a decision to open the café every Friday from 4-8 p.m. with a rotating sandwich menu. Other avenues they offered include:

  • Visiting the co-op first during grocery runs (complete with a hashtag, #FirstStopRWCoop)
  • Rounding up purchases made at the co-op to the nearest dollar
  • Volunteering with the co-op in some capacity

The neighborhood grocery and café is another example of a smaller local business still feeling the effects of the pandemic. This is the third time in the last 21 months that it has sounded the alarm over a potential closure, with previous ones coming in March and June of 2022.

For more information on the current situation and to donate, visit the co-op’s GoFundMe campaign.