Harvest Co-op has been facing financial problems, and is asking their members for support in the following months in order to keep the market alive. Harvest’s board has announced that the Co-Op needs to raise $300,000 this summer, or it could close its locations in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain by August.
Vidya Sivan, the vice president of Harvest’s Board of Directors, said that Harvest has been losing money since the JP location near Forest Hills opened in late 2012. Technically, Harvest is one business with multiple locations. The other location is located in Cambridge. The Cambridge location was forced to relocate due to a prohibitive increase in rent by the former property owner.
“Not differentiating our store in an increasingly competitive marketplace has led to five years of sustained sales decline,” Sivan said. “[There have been] eroding margins as the landscape became more competitive for natural and organic food, and we haven’t done enough to differentiate our stores and tell our story. We are not just a grocery store; we put the local in locally-owned and community-owned.”
Sivan has been a member of the Co-op since 2008 and has been a board member since Dec. 2017. She was a member-owner when the South Street location was still a store but had only shopped there once, and now shops primarily at the Cambridge location.
The South Street location closed in April 2015, “due to increasing overhead costs, continued sales decline and the challenges of operating at its current location,” according to a letter from the board at that time.
“I value that it is community-owned and for the community,” Sivan said. “I value that the Co-op is organized under the seven principles of cooperation as defined by the International Co-operative Alliance. I value my money not going to shareholders located elsewhere, making a profit, but to the greater Boston community.”
Sivan said that the best thing for Co-op members and residents to do in order to keep it afloat is to shift their purchases there, especially bulk items, prepared foods, supplements, and body care items.
“We are not a national company with a national reach and the ability to get the cheapest prices for things we sell,” Sivan said. “That being said, there are so many great deals at the Co-op, especially in the bulk section! But if people want to invest in their community, where the cycle of money spent stays in their community, shopping at Harvest is an important way to do that.”