Ashland Food Co-op

Ashland Food Co-op to Make Improvements to Deli & Produce Departments

Since July 2013 AFC management has been discussing possible solutions to the traffic jam that is created when the Juice Bar line intersects the Deli register line. Once we decided to remove the Deli cash register and expand the Juice Bar we had the realization that everything is so interconnected that moving the Juice Bar led to removing the salad bar which essentially led to the idea of totally remodeling the entire front of Deli that points outward to customers. A cooperatively inspired vision was born.

Beginning in May, we’ll undergo a two-phase remodel process in order to make our vision a reality. Phase 1 will occur in the middle of May and will not require any store closures. However, it will entail some inconveniences in the Produce department. On May 14, the island case that typically holds packaged lettuces, berries and sprouts will be removed. On May 15, the “wet cases” that hold most of the tender produce will be unavailable. Besides these changes, this phase of the remodel will include moving the Deli Grab n Go a few feet, concrete work, and the building of a cross merchandising space for us to design and create beautiful inspired displays to welcome you into our store.

Phase 2, around the middle of June, will require the entire Deli department to close for around 7-9 days. What will happen during that time is too large a list to fit in this space. Some highlights include: newly surfaced floors, increased refrigeration units, and a new layout for customers and staff alike. When we reopen you’ll be able to order all custom made deli items directly from a deli register so you don’t have to wait in line twice; think smoothies, sandwiches, juices and the like. We will have also added a made to order burrito bar, kombucha on tap and acai bowls to our already diverse menu.

As soon as a hard date is set for the closure, we’ll let you know so you can mark your calendars and either pack your lunch for that week or visit some of our other wonderful local restaurants. The rest of the store will remain open during the deli closure. We do hope the inconvenience is minor and well worth the improvements that the remodel will bring.

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Nestled in the Rogue Valley, in Ashland, Oregon, Ashland Food Cooperative is celebrating its 31st anniversary of bringing healthy, organic food to the community. What began in 1972 as a buying club with no storefront, is now an expanded store, with many new and exciting things. Our recent addition is bringing our customers more shopping space, a nice area to sit down and eat, more products, and an information counter. Check out how our store expansion progressed. In 1971 a small group of Ashland families joined together to form a food-buying club. Pooling their resources, they purchased food in bulk directly from distributors, saving themselves money and getting direct access to good quality whole foods. Membership grew rapidly as word got around. Within a year's time, a storefront on North Main was opened to accommodate demand, and the Ashland Community Food Store was born. The original store was a tiny place, crowded and cozy. Most products were sold in bulk, right out of the buckets, barrels and boxes they came in. Volunteers unloaded deliveries, did minimal stocking, ran the register and hung out. It was the quintessential hippie co-op, passionately loved by its patrons and grudgingly tolerated by the more conservative members of the community. Business grew steadily, and ACFS moved into larger quarters on 3rd and Lithia Way in the mid '70's. Grocery shelving and coolers now shared display space with the bulk bins and barrels. A wood stove and a large spool table provided heat and hominess. The store was managed and operated by a collective of eight paid employees who balanced their hard work at the store with potluck collective meetings. At these meetings operation decisions were made by consensus. Volunteers did many jobs in exchange for a purchase discount. A fledgling network of natural foods producers and distributors supplied ACFS customers with some of the healthiest and most creative products available anywhere at the time. The store functioned as a forum for alternative views and politics, producing a radical newspaper and often-rambunctious discussions at board meetings. The 1980's saw ACFS's customer base slowly broaden as health food consciousness entered the mainstream. The business growth and more diverse shopping community required ACFS to make adaptations, some of them accompanied by growing pains. By mid 80's volunteer labor was phased out, replaced by paid staff members to improve efficiency and service. Management structure became more focused and hierarchical as collective members evolved into department managers. A General Manager was hired in 1987 to oversee the business and coordinate the management team. The store was extensively remodeled in 1988 expanding retail, office and warehouse space. A community room was also added which was available at low or no cost for community sponsored events and classes. By the early 1990's ACFS was operating with a paid staff of more than fifty people and still barely able to keep up with the demand for product and service. It soon became clear that, beloved as it was, the Third Street building was no longer adequate for ACFS needs. A board committee considered options, and eventually decided to buy the vacant lot at the corner of First and A Street to build what is now our current facility. A committee of board, staff and community members worked with architects to develop a building design. Ground was broken on the new land in April 1993, for the next six months many staff members had double workloads, taking care of regular business while preparing for the new store. On November 9, 1993, an exhausted but euphoric staff opened the doors here at First and A and let the people pour in. They continue to pour in, in ever growing numbers. It was obvious that the new store needed to expand. After a year of planning, the construction project was begun. January 25, 2002 was cold and rainy but that didn't stop a lovely groundbreaking ceremony attended by board members, staff and loyal members, many of whom had been present at the first ceremony on the site in 1993. The 4500 square foot addition opened to the public in August and now houses our expanded full-service deli, the Mind's Eye Juice Bar, our huge produce department and enlarged meat and seafood department. The Co-op, as the store has been affectionately called for the past 30 years, seems to thrive on change. After many years of debate, research, education, surveys and member votes, Ashland Community Food Store members in November 2002 voted in favor of dissolving the mutual benefit corporation to re-incorporate as a cooperative corporation, operating on a not-for-profit basis. On January 1, 2003, the Co-op opened as Ashland Food Cooperative and began taking memberships in the newly formed co-op. Response was overwhelming. By the end of January more than 1000 customers had signed up and made the required equity investment to become owners. The outpouring of support assured board members, managers and staff that the right decision had been made. Membership is still growing at a fast pace. Regardless of all the change, Ashland Food Cooperative remains the destination food store in Southern Oregon. We hope to continue serving the Rogue Valley and beyond for years to come, and are glad to have you as part of our team.

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