PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Another locally-owned grocery store in Portland is closing.
Food Front Cooperative Grocery this week announced their Hillsdale store would shut its door Dec. 30 after 10 years on Southwest Capitol Highway.
The closure means about two dozen employees will lose their jobs just days after Christmas.
“It makes me sad,” said customer Vili Mang.
On Friday, Mang was among other shoppers at the Hillsdale location who were filling up baskets and carts for the last few times.
“It’s just a big loss to have Food Front go away,” Christy Splitt, president of the cooperative, said.
Before joining the co-op’s board of directors last year, Splitt had a longtime membership at the store - even though it’s not required to shop there.
“It’s a place that puts people first and it really shows every time you’re in here,” she said.
But in recent years, times have gotten tough for the store.
“A lot of the products that we once laid claim to and brought to the marketplace are now ubiquitous, right?” said General Manager Christina Nicholson. “They’re everywhere.”
Nicholson said for years, it has been a long marathon against corporate competitors. It was a race they couldn’t win.
Under past leadership, a mountain of debt owed to their landlords grew. Missed rent and loan payments ultimately led to the store operating in the red.
“They let us know a couple of months ago that we needed to pay off our debt to them, and we were unable to pay off that debt in time,” Splitt said.
When the Hillsdale store closes at the end of the month, it will join two other locally-owned grocery stores on the west side of Portland that have closed since August.
Food Front’s original location, on Northwest Thurman Street, will remain open but won’t be able to absorb all of the employees.
“We’re probably looking at about 25 layoffs,” Nicholson said.
Like most co-ops, Food Front’s core business model is local, which they define as products from Oregon and Washington. The closure is expected to impact those vendors as well.
The general manager says the co-op has taken out loans to pay off vendors, both local and national, to keep their brands at the Northwest location.
Despite the upcoming closure, Splitt is hopeful; overall sales have grown ten percent over the past three months, she said.
“I do believe that we will be able to sustain and grow because we will always be who we are, which is transparent, ethical and local,” Nicholson said.
Food Front says their landlord in Hillsdale is committed to keeping the location as a grocery store. They don’t anticipate the new tenant will be announced until after Jan. 1.
Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.