Hampden Park Co-op sounds call to action

Last summer, Hampden Park Co-op put out a call to action to its members to increase sales at the Raymond Avenue food cooperative. General manager Greg Junge says that call appears to have been heeded.

As of Nov. 1, the co-op’s sales were 6.5 percent above what they were a year ago, Junge said. Still, the store needs to see a 9 percent increase in sales and earnings by September 2015 to secure an alternative loan to pay back the $641,750 loan the co-op took out in 2008 to purchase the building at 928 Raymond Ave.

The board’s 365-Day Campaign Call to Action listed two pages of strategies aimed at bolstering the financial health of the store. First on the list was to hire a new general manager. Junge stepped into that role on Aug. 4.

Other steps include asking members to donate their discount. Each year, the co-op gives back nearly $170,000 to its members in the form of a discount. The goal is to reach $10,000 in donated discounts, Junge says. Members can donate the discount by simply telling the cashier at the time they make their purchase.

The board is also considering decreasing the 15 percent senior citizen discount, as that discount amounted to nearly $45,000 last year.

Board members were in the store each week in October to talk about the co-op’s status with shoppers. Next up: Canvassing the neighborhood to raise awareness of the co-op. Junge wants members to get the word out to friends and neighbors that the co-op needs their business and wants the community to come to Hampden Park to shop for the holidays. The store sells gifts and personal care items, as well as fresh produce and a complete line of grocery items.

Hampden Park Co-op was founded in 1972 as St. Anthony Park Foods, a nonprofit grocery near the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus, riding a national wave of co-op grocery formations serving a growing market for natural foods. In 1979, SAP Foods acquired the Green Grass Grocery, in the co-op’s current location, and renamed it SAP Too. Green Grass rented space from the Odd Fellows fraternal organization, which had owned the building since its construction in 1903.

In the early 1990s, corporate reorganization established Hampden Park Co-op as a cooperative rather than a nonprofit. This means its primary objective is to provide services to members, and it distributes an annual “patronage refund” if income has exceeded expenses. It is governed by a member-elected board. Each member (individual or household) purchases a share for $30 in order to join the co-op.

Just before the global financial crisis of 2008, Hampden Park Co-op purchased 928 Raymond Ave. from the Odd Fellows. A recession, light-rail construction on University Avenue and the closing of Raymond Avenue for traffic-calming reconstruction in 2013 contributed to the economic downturn at the store.

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