Food Co-op Grapples With Rent Issues, Satellite Closure

    The prevalence of
    campus construction may excite many UCSD shoppers and scholars, but for small
    businesses like the Food Co-op, the tangle of caution tape is a reminder of
    last year’s unresolved problems. Lack of reimbursement for interrupted
    facilities, as well as an abandoned satellite location in Price Center, are the
    root of ongoing financial setbacks for the student-run store.

    The co-op, a nonprofit
    specializing in healthy meal options, is familiar with problems stemming from
    the construction surrounding its locale in Student Center. Last year, the co-op
    saw its foot traffic lowered, store space reduced and — from January through
    April 2007 — kitchen access severed. Perhaps most grating to employees, though,
    was their intermittent loss of access to water.

    According to section
    seven of the Retail Cooperative Space Agreement, temporary loss of water supply
    would necessitate rent relief for the co-op. In spite of this written compensation
    guarantee, University Centers Director Paul Terzino countered that
    administrators had provided the requisite 30 days’ notice of facility
    interruptions. Terzino further claimed that section seven only applies when
    such interruptions force a tenant to close.

    Although the co-op
    remained open and functioning in the face of facility difficulties, university
    administrators ultimately offered the co-op a 50-percent rent abatement that
    members rejected.

    “We didn’t accept [the
    partial rent abatement] because we wanted to pursue full rent abatement for the
    period of time that our kitchen was under construction, which we believe is
    owed to us based on the language in our space agreement,” John Muir College
    senior and Food Co-op employee Molly Parent said. “We are looking into more
    formal means of settling that dispute.”

    A week ago, co-op
    employees decided to compose an official document asking the A.S. Advocate to
    assist them in obtaining full rent compensation. Though a response has not been
    received, employees hope that the letter will enable them to use the coming
    A.S. Council meeting as a forum where they can publicly express and negotiate
    concerns.

    Another source of
    frustration for the co-op is the failure of its satellite store, opened in
    January 2006, which was shut down over the summer. Located in Price Center, the
    satellite was an attempt to profit from the busy campus hub.

    “It was really great
    for us to be able to communicate to a new demographic and customer base, so
    that we could educate them about food alternatives,” Parent said.

    Though the additional
    location was designed to compete with Price Center’s array of restaurant
    options, the satellite struggled with meeting campus interest, slow summer
    profits and a lacking staff. Combined with debt from a loan required to open
    the satellite, the co-op’s finances were too unstable to support both sites.

    Though the co-op expects to re-open the satellite in the
    future, its focus has shifted to settling current debt and garnering more
    campus support.

    “It was cool to have a
    presence in the corporate-dominated consumerism of the Price Center,” Muir
    senior and co-op employee Adam Calo said. “However, I’m more focused on keeping
    the co-op alive. Spreading too thin was the reason why it had trouble.”

    In order to do this,
    employees are looking to recruit more volunteers.

    “We’re asking the
    community to become involved as more than consumers, but as invested members of
    the co-op,” Calo said.

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