Whole Foods is Killing the South Street Harvest

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The patio outside the Harvest Coop on South Street

Chris Helms

The patio outside the Harvest Coop on South Street

SECOND UPDATE: The Coop announced it will close the South Street store in mid-April.

UPDATE: The Harvest Coop board has announced it has made a decision — but hasn't made that decision public yet.

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Members of Harvest Coop packed a board meeting Monday night to talk about the possible shuttering of the communally-run grocer's South Street location.

Only members of the coop were allowed in to the tiny Forest Hills Street room where the meeting was held. As resident Kendra Nordin reports, the meeting was held in two shifts to accommodate all 60 people who showed up.

"That meant 30 of us waited outside in the 20 degree weather for a half hour," Nordin wrote in an email to Jamaica Plain News. "It shows the level of interest and commitment to keeping the store open!"

The patio outside the Harvest Coop on South Street

Chris Helms

The patio outside the Harvest Coop on South Street

At issue is the soon-to-expire lease at 57 South St. The local grocery chain is in talks with landlord Dean Rusk.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Lila Givens and the grocery chain's board of directors announced they'd come to a decision.

"Thank you to everyone who came out to the Board Meeting last night. It was a very productive discussion and we're grateful for your investment in Harvest. We wanted to send out an immediate update and let you know that the board was able to make a decision last night. The process is still unfolding and we'll send out communication through an official announcement soon."

As patrons of the South Street store know, the building needs repairs and the layout can be cumbersome to navigate. Harvest opened a second JP location near Forest Hills Station. The stores are .7 miles apart. That's a walk of roughly 15 minutes.

Nordin said the board asked the landlord to lower the rent and move to a year-to-year lease. He countered with a month-to-month deal at the same rent, she said.

"Board members are looking at how to increase member involvement/participation/support at the Arboretum store," she wrote. That store is growing in membership and outpaces South Street in revenue.

One interesting fact emerged from Monday's session: Since Whole Foods opened in JP in October 2011, revenue at the South Street Harvest has plummeted 38-40 percent, Nordin wrote.

Givens, in a Tuesday afternoon email, said the board was "humbled by the turnout of members and we're very thankful for their support of Harvest."

In what sounds a lot like an admission South Street will close, Nordin reported the board members saying that attempts to make a sustainability plan for the South Street store have failed.

Nordin also posted her notes on NextDoor.com, a network of private social networks by neighborhood.

Non-members weren't allowed in, as is usual for Harvest's board meetings. That didn't sit will with resident Sebastian Zapata.

[Editor's note: This item has been updated with statements from the Harvest Coop Board of Directors.]

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