West Asheville co-op faces eviction; calls community meeting

The Haywood Road Market, which has a history of financial struggles, now might have to leave its location of six years.

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


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9 thoughts on “West Asheville co-op faces eviction; calls community meeting

  1. jen

    Seems like rent in West Asheville is just as harsh these days. Wonder where the next booming neighborhood will pop up?

  2. Rob Close

    I think the issue was that poor business forced them to have high prices, which just made business worse. It’s hard for the little guys to be competitive…

  3. David

    Im sure this was not an easy decision for WAD but its apparent to anyone walking into the store that the CO-OP is not functioning. After many years of trying to turn the store around I think its time to give another business a chance. Hopefully a corner market with fresh produce.

  4. missemmalee

    Honestly, I found it difficult to shop there. I’m a W.Asheville resident who doesn’t have time to hangout and shop, talk some politics or whatever, and their inventory was sparse.

    I always knew they had to be hurting. Why don’t they work with Greenlife, or **gasp** Earthfare and create a satellite store that supports locally grown food? Wouldn’t that help with the supply issue?

    I would also love a place I can grab a pre-ready dinner for 4 on the fly – maybe supplied by local restaurants..

    Just some ideas..

  5. I agree with David and the article about it looking like they were already going out of business… the store looked like the sparse and bare shelved organic markets that were only starting to come about in Pennsylvania a few years ago, and not a locally endorsed co-op in one of the most health-concious and fiercely local-minded neighborhoods of Asheville.

    It is a shame that they couldn’t make it work, because the location is great, especially with the farmer’s market right out back…

    Hopefully someone will recognize the need and bring in something like a righteous deli with a fully stocked produce section, or like missemmalee said, some pre-made healthy dinners.

    There will be a whole new influx of customers once the mixed-use condo project down the street is finished…

  6. aaron

    I try to support all the local businesses in W.Asheville, being a business owner there myself. I found it hard to take that market as seriously as other co-ops simply because i could never seem to find everything i needed there, even on a basic shopping trip. There was always something missing in the marketing equation, both in terms of advertising and store appearance. I wish the board good luck but I think they need to look hard for a highly experienced management team. It seems like it could have been easier to turn a profit, especially in that location.

  7. Piffy!

    Although agree with everyone’s above sentiments in regards to the Westville Co-ops failed business model, overpriced food, and wilted produce, it also seems relevant to point out that it is VERY difficult for a small business to compete with the big guys like Greenlife/Earthfare.

    The problem with carrying fresh, local produce at reasonable prices is very complex, and has a lot to do with people’s somewhat unreal expectations. Consumers have come to expect a level of pricing and consistency that is based on the globalized, season-less business model, and are not willing to pay a little extra to support truly local, in season produce. Thus, a place like the Westville co-op is doomed to fail when forced to compete with greenlife/earthfare/engles.

  8. Although agree with everyone’s above sentiments in regards to the Westville Co-ops failed business model, overpriced food, and wilted produce, it also seems relevant to point out that it is VERY difficult for a small business to compete with the big guys like Greenlife/Earthfare.

    There are many reasons why this co-op failed, and the produce is definitely up there on the list.

    However, retail studies consistently show that price is just a part of the equation, sometimes even a small part. Customers also shop for convenience, selection and service. The Co-op had the convenience part, but desperately needed the others to be competitive (for the record, I had no problem with the service).

    I thought that adding some more high-end products would have differentiate themselves on this side of town: prepared meals, cheeses, etc. Also some meat would have helped.

    The Roots Cafe that was in there had some of the best food in town, and were gaining momentum but a dispute over rent forced them to leave. Who was in the right? I don’t know. Also Ultimate Ice Cream stuck it out in there for about two or three months. Now, Two Spoons is open and seems find success serving…. Ultimate Ice Cream.

    My hometown was about a third of the size of Asheville and supported about four or five produce stands for decades (still do). This might be a good business model.

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