Seward Co-op opened its doors on a dreary winter day in 1972, during a time when food prices were sky-rocketing, faith in government was at a low point, and civil rights issues were at the forefront of evolving social movements. The world seemed increasingly fragile, alienating, and volatile, and people responded by participating in grassroots organizing to build a better world. They believed it was time for a system that valued transparency over secrecy, one that promoted fairness over abuse of power.
Seward Co-op’s first building was located at the corner of 22nd and Franklin Avenues as a storefront of less than 700 square feet, and it was run by volunteers. When the opportunity arose to use that building, organizers hit the streets, petitioning community members to join an effort to start the co-op and raise money to purchase the initial inventory. Most of the food was sold from large buckets and bags sitting on the floor.
Fifty years later, our product selection and merchandising techniques look pretty different, but the need for cooperative organizing is stronger than ever.
Starting a food co-op in 1972 was an extension of an anti-establishment ethos that encompassed the environmental, civil rights, urban renewal, and anti-war movements of the time. The idea behind the food co-op was to provide an antidote to corporate capitalism, to create a place where an alternative economic order could flourish, and the average person would have a voice.
As we begin a year of celebrating our 50th anniversary as a co-op, we continue to reflect on who we are as part of a broader cooperative movement working for justice and the abolition of oppressive systems. In 2022, enjoy this series of events and discussions about our own evolution as a co-op—and what we want Seward Community Co-op to be 50 years in the future.