Northwest Portland says goodbye to a local co-op

Food+Front+closed+on+April+24+after+the+resignation+of+General+Manager+Micheal+Balanoff.

Hazel Thomas

Food Front closed on April 24 after the resignation of General Manager Micheal Balanoff.

Hazel Thomas

Food Front Cooperative Grocery has been a favorite local grocery store for Northwest Portland residents since 1972, but recently closed.

While a corporation is defined as a single entity separate from its owners, a co-op like Food Front is owned by members.

According to former Food Front employee Catherine Magasich, there were several reasons for the closure, including the arrival of a New Seasons Market in 2015, just a few blocks away. 

Magasich worked at Food Front for almost 13 years, starting in 2008, before transitioning to work at New Seasons in 2021. 

According to Magasich, Food Front’s financial issues were caused by several things, one of which was a remodel done to compete with New Seasons; Magasich said the remodel cost almost $1 million. 

“We then had this incredible debt from this remodel because [Food Front was] unfortunately trying to look more like New Seasons, which is really not what they should have done,” said Magasich. 

Magasich said that another one of the main issues Food Front faced was with general management. 

“In the 13 years that I was there we had 10 different GMs (general managers),” said Magasich. 

Magasich said many GMs left or were fired due to the stress over financial issues and the most recent and final GM oversaw a 50% reduction of Food Front’s sales.

“[The new GM] did not come from a grocery background or even a retail background,” said Magasich. “I don’t think he really understood what you needed to do to thrive as a grocery store.”

As previously published in The Oregonian, Food Front workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers labor union put blame on the management of the store because they didn’t inform members of the financial state of the store soon enough.

The Cardinal Times reached out to Food Front for an interview with a manager or board member, but received no response.

Now working at New Seasons, Magasich said that working for Food Front felt more like a family while New Seasons feels more like a corporation. 

“[New Seasons is] an okay place to work; it’s not a bad place to work. I just miss the feeling of community that I had at Food Front,” said Magasich.

Regina Hauser has been shopping at Food Front since 1985, and noticed a recent change in dynamic.

“Quite frankly the kind of happy vibe there was not so happy. You could tell that the staff was stressed out and the customers were snippy because the shelves were empty,” said Hauser. 

Hauser thinks that being a smaller business made things difficult for Food Front.

“It’s harder to run a grocery store on a smaller scale. You can’t buy quantities at the same discounts,” said Hauser. 

Although many people are working to help Food Front reopen at some point in the future, the odds don’t seem to be in their favor. 

“I don’t see the path,” said Hauser. “Maybe [they will reopen], but I don’t think they will.”