Customers have been traveling from all over Spokane to support the Main Market Co-op since it opened more than a year ago. The co-op is impacting the community and economy by providing downtown Spokane a healthier way of eating.
Main Market is the first grocery store downtown since the closure of the Safeway near the Maple Street freeway exit in November 2006. However, Main Market is doing more than offering customers basic groceries. It is also helping to boost the local economy.
"We have been able to work with a lot of small independent farmers and some of those farmers have been able to sell so much to us that we are then selling to the public that it is making their businesses stronger and healthier. They can't even keep up and so they are working to expand their businesses, which is helping the local economy," General Manager Jeanette Hamilton said.
While Main Market is helping support the local economy, it is also impacting members of the Spokane community. Susan Purkett, a Main Market customer, said she takes the bus downtown so she can shop there.
"I like to support local businesses. My whole life I have been supporting corporations but I want to support local businesses that have the same values that I do," Purkett said.
"I know that corporations are profit-driven and they don't have it in my best interest to stay healthy. So, I have to do a lot of work to keep myself healthy. It does take a lot of energy to come down here and try new things and open my mind and palate to new food, but I have to protect myself from a lifetime of commercialism and products."
Margaret Ruhl, a Gonzaga sophomore who frequently rides her bike to the co-op, explained that she sees Main Market as the future of groceries.
"People perceive it as expensive but it's the real price of food. I'd rather my money go towards good quality than a large quantity" Ruhl said.
Purkett and Ruhl agreed that Main Market was not only adding to the community by offering a healthier alternative, but also a healthier lifestyle.
"Healthier options are what I'm looking for and that's what they offer," Purkett said.
Hamilton said Main Market wants to offer its customers quality products at reasonable prices.
"We want our members to remember that healthier food is always there and always an option," Hamilton said.
Main Market is working to make healthier food an option for all members of the Spokane community. Though membership is not necessary, Hamilton explained that the co-op has made the membership more affordable. With membership, customers are able to participate in voting for the co-op board members, along with receiving store discounts and special offers, Hamilton said.
"Before, people had to make three payments if they wanted a full membership and that was a lot of money, so we switched it to just $10 a month. You pay $10 and you're active for 30 days. You get all the deals and the 10 percent discount [on member appreciation day] and all the other benefits," Hamilton said.
Along with the change in membership fee, Hamilton explained that lower-income customers could apply for a subsidized membership if their income was less than double the federal poverty limit, while students are able to pay a $30 flat price for a year membership.
"Everything in the plan is focused on how we can better meet the needs and expectations of our members and the community," Hamilton said.