Harvest Co-op Facing Financial Difficulties

Harvest Co-op Markets, which maintained a store on South Street in Jamaica Plain for many years before opening a new market on Washington Street in Forest Hills and closing the original, are down nearly 40 percent from 2011, and is losing $30,000 a month, the Boston Globe recently reported.

Richard Heath

The original Harvest Co-op at 57 South St. prior to its closure.

Harvest Co-op, which also maintains a market in Cambridge, posted a public letter in April explaining its situation and encouraging its members to spend more on groceries:

We have some distressing news to share about the business that we own together. According to the Harvest management team, we are facing a significant cash flow problem and declining sales. As with many natural grocery cooperatives across the country, Harvest is facing increased competition in the market and declining customer loyalty. Without more cash on hand soon, Harvest will struggle to make payments, repair equipment, or invest in future of the business.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. This situation is serious, which is why we’re appealing directly to you — Harvest’s member-owners — for help. Together, we believe we will weather this storm and in the process create a stronger, more democratic, and more resilient business.

The letter goes on to say that, unless members and others choose to shop at Harvest more often and to participate in its committees and activities, fixes such as no longer tying Member Appreciation Day to a specific day could be for naught. If each of the co-op’s 3,600 members spent $15 more each week at the cooperative, the operation would be fully sustainable.

The Globe article posits that “the wider availability of more natural food in mainstream supermarkets has accelerated its downturn,” and cites the 2011 opening of Whole Foods in JP’s Hyde Square as a contributing factor. However, the article does not specifically consider any possible effects of the decision to open the new Harvest at 3815 Washington St. and close the more central 57 South St. store. That store shuttered in spring 2015 after its lease expired. Residents expressed various wishes for the empty space; Pine Village Preschool eventually opened there last fall.

Visit the Globe to read the full article.

  • Malena

    That’s too bad to hear but I think leaving the South Street location was a mistake. Our neighbors in that area, especially the elderly, really appreciated that spot. After Whole Foods opened, I made a point of going in there to make purchases even though WF is closer/ Where Harvest is now it’s impossible for me especially while they’re fixing Forest Hills.

    • jonathan R McLaughlin

      yes, though on the move I think their hand was forced by a rent increase…not sure of that. I have to say that I never felt the community spirit they reference when shopping there at all and the quality was/is always poor in the 10+ years I’ve lived in JP. Lots of stuff was expensive too. In the meantime, places like citifeed seem to me to make much more of an effort to be true community partners. Maybe more of Harvest’s involvement was in Cambridge?. I’m not glad to see them close up shop, but I’m not mourning too much either. Other peoples MMV, of course.

  • May

    I remember the South Street location, I remember liking it. The current store on Washington is just an overpriced den of incompetence and food spoilage with so few redeeming qualities. I really hope they do go out of business, so we can get a functional grocery store there instead.

  • Monster

    I used to spend a few hundred bucks a month in the South St. Harvest simply because I could walk to it. It was a like a really great neighborhood corner store on organic, locally-sourced probiotic steroids. I rarely did my larger full-week shopping trips there, but it was perfect for smaller mid-week trips for random stuff.

    Practically nobody can walk to the new location, which immediately positions it as a competitor to the bigger and cheaper stores which are better for large restock-the-pantry weekend shopping trips.

  • Hugo_JP

    Was it a landlord/rent issue that made Harvest Coop move down to Forest Hills? Seems like that was the nail in the coffin.
    People will support local business if its convenient and affordable. Once Harvest moved to its new location they lost the convenience factor and judging from some of the comments, they were never really price competitive. So it goes…