1974 - 1976
Co-opportunity began as the Westside Buyers Club in the garage of one of the four founding members, on Mississippi Avenue in West Los Angeles. Passionate and committed to Natural Foods, all four decided to invest and help in any way they could to open a real store. By late spring they were able to find a vacant storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles.
Shortly before opening the store on August 24, 1974, they adopted the name Co-opportunity. It was a name given by an unknown man who decided it was a great fit after listening to people in an open community meeting talk about this new co-op being a great opportunity for many.
With its health food orientation, Co-opportunity grew quickly from 20 members in August 1974 to 400 members by September 1975. A monthly sales volume of $7,000 was straining the store’s capacity. They now had to find a larger location.
1976 - 1995
To make Co-opportunity feel like part of a community, their first choice was the city of Santa Monica. After a nine-month search, they found a location on 16th and Broadway. It was in a quiet, commercial-industrial area, on a lot packed with Hertz rental trucks and used cars. On July 4th 1976, members used their cars, vans and trucks to move all of the inventory and fixtures down Santa Monica Blvd to the new store at 1530 Broadway.
In February of 1977, with the Co-op still increasing in membership and sales growth, an opportunity arose to lease an additional 1,500 square footage of space on the property where Co-opportunity was located. The Board and its workers saw the potential in the space and proceeded to build a meeting room. Shortly after, a produce wholesale was added that created additional needs for capital and inventory. In September of 1977 a major increase in staff wages was agreed upon by the Board without specifying where the additional funds would come from. By July of 1977 the Co-op began to experience a downturn in profits. Stress and tension over control, escalated problems both operational and organizational would send the young cooperative through its lowest years. Fighting to overcome bankruptcy and operating for a while without a General Manager, some thought there would come a time when the Co-op would have to close its doors.
1995 - 2011
The Co-op weathered a stormy period in the 1980s to emerge as a healthy organization in the 1990s. The Board took the brave step of hiring Will Simon as General Manager and giving him real power as a manager. He had the enviable task of plugging a hundred holes into a sinking organization before it could move forward. Will had owned and managed several natural food stores in the 1960s and 1970s. Once Will began applying his business knowledge to the organization and its operations, making necessary changes and flipping the whole store inside and out, sales and financial performance immediately improved.
By the early 1990s the store was jam-packed with members and shoppers and becoming almost impossible to deal with. Will noticed that there was an empty lot directly across the street from the store at 1525 Broadway. He and the Board got together and worked out a plan. In 1995 a new store was built especially for Co-opportunity. Under the helm of the savvy business man, the move doubled the Co-op's retail space, and sales increased immediately.
2011 - 2016
Twenty years before Will Simon was hired, the Co-op was in bankruptcy and had virtually nothing. When Will retired in 2006, the Co-op had 1.8 million in cash in the bank and had become a financially solid, debt-free business, poised to thrive and grow even more.
Today it’s still that flourishing cooperative with deep roots in the community. Under the leadership of Will Simon-trained Bruce Palma, the Co-op has continued its success and growth! In 2011 Co-opportunity experienced a major makeover of not only its physical location, but operations in general. With over 40 years in business, the long road of growth for Co-opportunity has developed this cooperative into a rich community staple.
Having gone from four founders to over 11,000 members and growing, our future potential is truly unlimited!
A new future awaits us! Co-opportunity’s second store opens in Culver City.
*For more Co-opportunity history, purchase a copy of the book, “Co-opportunity: The Rise of a Community Owned Market” written by founding member, David J. Thompson. Available now at the Co-op.