Fort Collins Food Co-op Rooted in Community

Ruth Inglis-Widrick has her reusable grocery bag in hand as she paces the aisles of the Fort Collins Food Co-op, her bicycle helmet with its giant "co-op" sticker still atop her head.

She's a weekly shopper at the 250 E. Mountain Ave. store. She’s a lifetime owner of the Old Town business, a distinction she shares with about 3,500 others.

“It is really empowering for people to become owners of their grocery store,” said Inglis-Widrick, who joined the co-op with her husband immediately after moving to Fort Collins in 1989.

“It makes shopping fun. You get to be part of a small community.”

The Food Co-op operates like a normal grocery store, but unlike most grocers, shoppers who are co-op members can attend monthly meetings to voice opinions on the business. Members also elect a governing board of directors — this year Inglis-Widrick is the chair — to oversee operations.

Membership at the Food Co-op costs a one-time payment of $160, plus a $5 annual renewal fee. While that payment gets members a voice in the co-op’s direction, it’s not required to shop in the Old Town grocery.

“The co-op was a place to meet those with a like-minded focus and who were environmentally aware,” said Bailey Stenson, an early employee who met her husband while on shift.

Stenson now runs Happy Heart Farm. While all of Happy Heart's produce goes to CSA members, about 30 local vendors, including numerous farms, distribute their goods to the co-op.

Bublitz said about 30 percent of all co-op sales are of local products. Bulk sales of a variety of products also make up a large chunk of the business.

While the operation recently considered relocating, that’s no longer on the table. The owners of the co-op have spoken.

“The co-op is like a David and Goliath story,” said Stenson, still a regular co-op shopper. “There’s a lot of major supermarkets out there.

“But the community continues to support it."

Fort Collins Food Co-Op

What: A grocery store where anyone can shop. Shoppers can also become co-op owners with say in board meetings for a one-time $160 lifetime equity share fee.

Where: 250 E. Mountain Ave., Fort Collins

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

More information:www.fcfood.coop

Follow Jake Laxen on Twitter and Instagram @jacoblaxen.

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