Seward Co-op opened in 1972 on the corner of 22nd and Franklin avenues. In the beginning we were run by a core group of volunteers and had a small selection of products with a heavy emphasis on bulk goods. By 1976 we had incorporated and established an elected board of directors.
In the early ’80s, our board and collective adopted a general management structure, and we reincorporated as a consumer co-op. Patronage refunds were introduced and volunteering was no longer required of members. Over the next several years our ownership and sales grew significantly. In 1987, we expanded our building, and we again found that growth led to more growth.
By the mid-1990s, it became clear to our board and management that we weren't done growing. With their guidance, and the support of our owners, we built a new store one block west on Franklin Ave. The doors opened in 1998 and by 1999, our sales, staff and ownership had doubled.
In 2005, we began to plan for a new store expansion on Franklin Ave. As chance would have it, the old Riverside Market site became available. Seward Co-op owners invested $1.5 million in the project and the current Franklin store opened Jan. 8, 2009. The 25,600-square-foot store has 13,000 square feet of retail space, a second-floor classroom, and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certified.
In 2012, Seward Co-op celebrated its 40th anniversary. A year later, we announced our proposed second store, across the street from the Sabathani Community Center at East 38th Street and Clinton Avenue South. We are very excited about our new store, which we are calling the Friendship store. We see this as an opportunity to bring more people together around good food. The Friendship store will open in October 2015.
We also saw the opening of the Co-op Creamery at 2601 E. Franklin Ave. in 2015. The building was built in 1920 by a multi-stakeholder co-op that processed and home delivered milk and other dairy products to its owners. After many decades, Seward Co-op is returning the building to its original use as a food production facility where we will expand our bakery and meat production. The space also houses our administrative offices on the second floor, and a retail café, the Co-op Creamery.
Back in 1972, when the co-op took shape, few people could have imagined it would grow to be the thriving community center and source of healthful food it is today. From a few working volunteers, Seward Co-op has grown to more than 13,000 owners. Store sales are nearly $35 million, and the co-op now employs more than 300 people. What’s most important, though, is that amidst great success and profitability, the co-op has remained true to its Ends, never losing sight of its commitment to its owners and the greater community.