Valley Food Co-op changes hours, will not close

ALAMOSA — Rumors have been swirling that Valley Food Co-op is shutting its doors, though that is not the case. Instead, the cooperative's members decided during a meeting on April 29 that it would be no longer open on Sundays to cut operating costs.

Starting Sunday, May 6, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The store, located in the Villa Mall at 3211 Main Street, has existed since 1980 and moved from the back of the mall to the front in 2013. However, the expansion and relocation hasn't gone smoothly. According to general manager Donna Mabry, sales have decreased by 20 percent annually in those five years. Combined with a $3,000 monthly rent and upkeep costs associated with gaining roughly 5,000-square feet, members had a choice of downsizing or dissolving.

Along with the change in hours, the store will gradually move back into its original home. The inventory will shrink but Mabry hopes that they can now better highlight unique items like bulk foods, local products and supplements.

"This is where we glitched," Mabry said. "We tried to be a grocery store, so now we’re getting back to our center and resetting our focus."

Earlier this year the store moved to "pure-profit Sundays" where volunteers worked for free, yet those days still require a paid manager on site. Mabry, who became the general manager in October of 2017, will be soon working only three days a week so it won't be feasible for assistant Sheryl Strohm to be there each weekend.

"I'm committed as ever to the store, but I just need to step back to attend to family issues that have come up," said Mabry.

Besides Mabry and Strohm, the store has five other employees who all work part-time and are assisted regularly by eight to 10 volunteers. A five-member board has fiduciary oversight and roughly 400 co-op members help offset expenses.

To coincide with the expansion in 2013 people could buy in with a $150 lifetime membership instead of the regular $25 annual membership. Mabry said that the majority of members have the lifetime membership, which in hindsight hurt the co-op.

"The annual memberships funded some of our operating costs like labor," she said. "It's not good when you get rid of that annual money you can count on."

Mabry also hopes that bringing back a daily five percent discount for members will help increase revenue, instead of the old monthly discount that lead to infrequent shoppers.

Since the store will no longer be open on Sundays, their new educational workshop series will move to Saturdays. The workshops taught people about homebrewing, hemp, edible flowers and more. This Saturday the store will feature a class on the Chinese Five Element system.

The programs will likely only occur in the winter from now on so interested attendants are encouraged to keep an eye on Valley Food Co-op's Facebook page and website.

"I would still like to offer because they have been a really neat resource for the community and it's really been a good opportunity to get people in there. However, there's a change in attendance in the summertime."