For the last four decades, the Kootenay Co-op and our member-owners have led the way in promoting organic farming, local, bulk and fair trade foods and important environmental issues like composting, recycling, waste reduction and the buying power of informed consumers.
It all began in the nineteen seventies…
The Kootenay Co-op was incorporated on June 24, 1975. At the time it was known as the Vallican-Winlaw Food Co-operative and was run by volunteers as a food buying club in the Slocan Valley.
The Co-operative changes it’s name to the Kootenay Country Store Co-op, commonly known as the Kootenay Co-op.
The members opened a small retail operation in the old school house in South Slocan, selling only to the membership. The Co-op was run on a break-even basis, and was staffed mainly by volunteers. Gross sales were approximately $150,000 per year.
In 1985 the Co-op moves into Nelson’s downtown core.
The Co-op acquires the assets of the Nelson Pantry House, a natural food store, and moved to 702 Baker Street in Nelson. Gross sales have increased to $273,500/year by1986.
Starting in 1988, the Kootenay Co-op records steady growth and gains a position as a strong community-focused co-operative business.
With a $65,000 loan from KREDA Corporation (now Community Futures), the Co-op purchases more modern equipment and plans a major renovation to increase retail space.
In 1991, the Co-op realises it needs more space and decides to move to the other end of Baker Street, occupying approximately 8,000 sq feet. A member loan campaign raises $100 000 dollars to realise the expansion. To share rental costs, the Co-op shares some of this new space with the Kootenay Baker.
Kootenay Co-op expands into the space occupied by the Kootenay Baker in Spring 2001, adding another 4,000 square feet. The Kootenay Baker moves to its current location and changes its structure from sole-proprietorship to a worker co-operative
Renovations to the office, basement and warehouse help ease the increasing pressure on space.
Membership increases by 572 in 2011 alone. In 2011, the Board undertakes a major update of its member benefits for the time in 20 years.
The Co-op purchases its own land at 708 Vernon St. after years of careful saving and planning. The next chapter begins! The Co-op reaches $10 million in sales for the year, averaging $1,990 in sales per square feet (more than double the industry average).
In response to a government changes, the Co-op launches its True Local brand to support their 100+ suppliers .
The Co-op launches a Member Loans Campaign to help fund the new store and raises just under $1.8 million in 1 month, setting a record among North American food co-ops.
The Co-op launches a development company, the Nelson Commons, to spearhead the development of the land into a multi-use building that incorporates residential units, a larger Co-op, additional commercial spaces and green space. Sales of the residential units begins in the winter.
After two years of construction and many years of planning, the Kootenay Co-op moves into its new store at 777 Baker Street on December 8. With over 21,000 square feet, the Co-op has room to add new products and services, including a full-service Butcher Shop, the Kootenay Co-op Kitchen, and expanded cheese and deli offerings.
With the new store in full swing, more than 100 members are joining each month. Sales increase to $16 million, and staff increases from 100 to 175.