April DeLac, president of the co-op’s board, said the market received an eviction notice from Bledsoe Building owners West Asheville Development in late March after the market had been late on paying February’s rent.
DeLac noted that the co-op’s money woes stretch back further than two months.
“We’ve been a struggling co-op for a long time,” she said. “There’s been financial issues almost the entire history.”
Those financial issues include not only late rent payments but also a series of personal and business loans extended over the years to try to help the market reach a sustainable level, says WAD partner and West End Bakery co-owner Krista Stearns.
“This has been years in coming,” Stearns said. “And it was a very hard decision to make.”
Stearns’ husband Lewis Lankford, also a member of WAD, said the co-op’s poor payment history led to the decision not to renew the market’s lease in January, switching to a month-to-month status, and eventually to the eviction notice, which is effective the end of May.
But Lankford, himself a founding board member of the co-op, said that empty shelves and declining business also gave a dim forecast of the market’s future.
“The decision was reinforced by going in and seeing the condition of the store,” he said. “It didn’t have the feel of anything except something that was going away.”
For DeLac, however, there are still options on the table (granted, those options include moving or closing shop for good). The co-op will hold a member’s meeting — with the public invited — on Tuesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bledsoe Building to try to figure out the next step.
“We have some good leads” on a new space, DeLac says. “Sources have contacted us saying ‘We love the co-op.’” But the decision to relocate and continue on with the market will depend, she said, on community support. “We just don’t want to be another statistic in this economy,” she said.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer
Read more articles in:News