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Co-op Cashes In

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The Flipside Cafe lost the Boise Co-op fully $700,000 before it was shuttered, not $400,000 as originally reported a year ago, the store's manager said this weekend. But the main grocery store, now one of the country's largest natural foods Co-ops in the United States, is doing fine just the same, its management reports. At an annual board and membership meeting this weekend, manager Ken Kavanaugh, who is also president of the board, reported some $22.9 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending June 30, 2007. Gross margins for the same period, after costs, were $7 million.

Some 30 people attended the Co-op's meeting, which lacked much of the acrimony from the 2006 board meeting, when members accused Kavanaugh and other board members of being insensitive to the interests of membership. The Co-op has some 40,000 members; about 25,000 of those actively shop at the store regularly.

A bright spot this year so far is the new wine shop, which opened across the parking lot from the main store on Fort Street in Boise's North End. In one day, Kavanaugh said, the store made $18,000 in sales, prompted by the sale of six $900 bottles of wine by an out-of-state buyer.

City Council Member David Eberle is also on the Co-op's board; he was brought on last year in part to help stem the bloodletting of the Flipside. The cafe closed a week after Eberle came on board.

In partial response to the concerns of members, Co-op member Steve Lester has begun a Members Forum that he hopes will help direct membership ideas to the board and to Kavanaugh. One of their primary goals is the establishment of a bulletin board in a prominent spot in the store, for communicating Co-op issues to and from members.

The store is also bracing for the market entry of Whole Foods, which has purchased land to build a store at the corner of Broadway and Front streets.

"I'm actually really excited about it," Eberle said. He believes Whole Foods will "grow the pie" of consumers of the sort of goods that the Co-op specializes in.