Harvest Co-op announces closure

The Harvest Co-op Market announced in a letter to members on Oct. 3 that it would be closing within two weeks.

Harvest Co-op had been facing financial problems, and was asking their members for support in order to keep the market alive. Harvest’s board had said earlier this year that the Co-Op needed to raise $300,000 during the summer, or it could close its locations in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain.

“Despite the tireless efforts of Harvest staff, the Board, and member-owners to try to restore the Co-op to good financial health, Harvest is approaching financially insolvency with no viable path forward,” said the letter to members.

Helen Matthews, a member and a former worker at Harvest Co-op, said she found out about the closure hours after she had shopped there and that it hit her “like a ton of bricks.”

“It was a thriving, bustling, community-owned market,” said Matthews, who also noted her concern for the longtime employees of the market and what would happen to them.

She said that with the market closing, Boston will be the only major city in the country without a co-op. Matthews said that if major large chain stores like Whole Foods had not moved it, “Harvest would still be alive today. It’s a tragedy.”

The letter to members echoed Matthews point about competition.

“During the past decade, the retail organic/natural food landscape has changed drastically with more competitors, including the larger conventional chains placing much more emphasis on the organic/natural products arena. This changing marketplace has created a decline in sales for our Co-op that has intensified over the last two years, and the trend continues. We have put many cost controls into place, reducing purchasing and labor costs. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked. Sales continue to drop, and Harvest continues to lose significant money each month,” said the letter.

The letter went on to say that the hope was that the National Co+op Grocers (NCG) could have provided a “financially sustainable solution” that would allow the market to continue operations, but that NCG recently announced it would not be submitting a proposal for the market to consider.

“In light of this fact, and the reality that we have no other viable options to rescue the Co-op, the Board has determined that the most responsible act is to close the stores in order to get the most value out of our assets to address as much of our financial obligations as possible,” said the letter.

“We determined that this is the right action to take in order to ensure all Harvest employees, many of whom have supported us for many years, will receive their final payments. We had to act quickly because of the cash position of the Co-op and the fact that the stores continue to lose money each day.

“We thank you for your loyalty and patronage. We are particularly grateful for those member-owners who have volunteered in many capacities over the years, including as directors of the Board. We are proud of our legacy of providing jobs and keeping our local economy strong while providing unique and healthy food. We have accomplished and learned much through the years.”

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