A new co-op market is slowly coming to fruition in Salt Lake City, but potential shoppers will have to wait until 2025 to drop by and pick up groceries.
Wasatch Cooperative Market plans to open their first co-op store in the building they’ve leased at 422 E. 900 South, which was previously occupied by Southeast Market until about a year ago.
The organization, whose future grocery store is owned by more than 900 community members, has been dreaming about opening a physical market since 2009.
But before that can happen, the building must undergo a major renovation. And before Wasatch Cooperative can finish the architectural and engineering work, purchase equipment, acquire inventory, hire staff and complete the store design, the organization must raise $2.8 million, said Barbara Pioli, co-op development coordinator.
Once the co-op is open, anyone will be able to shop there, whether they’re an owner or not.
Co-op market vs. regular grocery store
The store will be small, about one-fifth the size of the nearby Smith’s grocery store on 800 South, she said, but it will include a dairy section, a produce section, frozen foods, meat and fish, bulk foods, seasonal items, dry goods and a wellness care section.
What will set this store apart from a conventional grocery store is its focus on local food and goods, Pioli said. “It’s an attempt to be an alternative to your conventional stores,” she said, with a dedication to “improving and securing” Utah’s food system.
Giving local farmers and ranchers a more reliable business model helps them expand their businesses and also encourages more producers to come online, Pioli said.
Not everything can come from a local source, such as bananas, oranges and avocados. But the Wasatch Cooperative Market anticipates contracting with another co-op in order to procure items that can’t grow in Utah’s climate, Pioli said. Dry goods such as cereal and pasta will be sourced in the state whenever possible.
The co-op will also focus on sustainably sourced food. Not all of the small- and medium-sized farms and producers the co-op is going to work with will be able to afford organic certification. But Pioli said the co-op will be transparent with owners and shoppers about their practices.
Pioli said that when Wasatch Cooperative Market announced that they were leasing the former Southeast Market building, the surrounding neighborhood was so enthusiastic that the organization gained 50 new owners.
“They’re just so excited to have something that’s walkable, that they can trust where the products come from,” she said.
Making the co-op a reality
In order to raise the necessary $2.8 million, Pioli said Wasatch Cooperative Market is launching a capital campaign in September focused on donations and signing up new owners.
Anyone can become an owner for life by paying a one-time sum of $300 (which can be split up into a payment plan). Ownership entitles individuals to have a say in how the co-op market is run and receive patronage dividends during profitable years, Pioli said.
To become an owner, go to Wasatch.coop/apply/ and fill out the form. If you don’t want to be an owner but still want to help the co-op, you can make a donation by going online to Wasatch.coop and clicking the green donate button.
The co-op market is “not a done deal, but we think that it’s very doable,” Pioli said. “Because it’s a community enterprise, we’re always looking for the community to get behind it.”