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Report: Durham Food Co-op to sell W. Chapel Hill St. facility?

Details are sketchy at this point, but according to a report wending its way through local listservs, the Durham Food Co-op membership has voted to sell its 1101 W. Chapel Hill St. store and "return to the buying-club model, which will require much less space."

To date, there have been a small number of interested buyers, according to the report, and a special meeting of the Co-op membership is scheduled for June 29 to review sale offers and give feedback to the Co-op's board on which direction to take.

We're not sure what exactly a buying-club model would look like, though it certainly implies the end of the Co-op as a retail storefront operation. We'll continue digging into this to provide more details as we learn them.


Ross Grady

Buying club primer:

Not sure, between the rise of the Farmer's Market, CSAs, and the local foods movement, and the availability of Whole Foods, plus Trader Joe's & Weaver Street in Chapel Hill, whether there's still a viable audience for an old-fashioned bulk-foods buying club (although I guess it doesn't take that many people to sustain).

What's the status of the rumor mill re: the potential downtown market/co-op that was being talked about last year?


My wife and I are coop members who weren't active volunteers, but we did the bulk of our shopping there. Unfortunately, we have stopped shopping there because they basically don't stock much of anything anymore. The last time we went, she spent about $5 there and had to get the rest of our groceries at Whole Foods. We just figured we may as well just go to Whole Foods and save the gas.

The explanation I heard regarding the dearth of inventory was that they were switching suppliers from an Atlanta-based firm to one that is closer. In any case, I can imagine members like us have abandoned ship, so I think it would be a good move to sell the building. We enjoyed shopping there, so it will be missed.


We've been members of the co-op for almost 20 years, so the closing is a sad but not unexpected event. As cq states, the co-op has been difficult to shop at for months, if not years, due to unpredictable stock on the shelves and some indifferent staff. I've kept the household membership up until this April, when I just gave up. Mostly I'm concerned that there will be another black hole in the retail composition of W. Chapel Hill Street. I hope that whoever buys it will keep it as some sort of neighborhood friendly retail business, and not another storefront church.


Weaver Street's in Carrboro. (as is Cat's Cradle and the ArtsCenter...)

Carrboro is not in Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill sold out its coop to some outfit from Texas, or so I've heard.

(Remember Wellspring? That nice, local, affordable cooperative market- until they got greedy and sold out.)

I'm old enough to remember when buyers clubs were the norm for alternative markets. I think it's worth resurrecting the concept.

Michael Bacon

The new co-op, Durham Central Market, is moving forward. We'll hopefully be selling membership shares starting sometime in the next few weeks (become a founding member!) A website with some information will be up shortly, although that will naturally continue to be a work in progress.

Monica Chen at the H-S had an article on that this week.

(That link will probably go dead next Wednesday.)

And for what it's worth, Wellspring was never a cooperative. It was always a privately held business -- Lex Alexander, the owner, just decided to sell.

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