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Isla Vista Food Co-op Looking for Buy-In to Keep Its Building

Facing possibility of a new owner, alternative grocer still short of fundraising goal to purchase the store itself

The Isla Vista Food Co-op is going down to the wire with its ambitious fundraising campaign.

A fixture in the eclectic seaside community for nearly 40 years, the alternative grocer is aiming to raise $225,000 by Nov. 15 for a down payment to buy its building at 6575 Seville Road. With just a few days to go, the store has collected $118,148, according to general manager Melissa Cohen.

The urgency has been driven by the landlord’s announcement that the co-op’s building would soon be going on the market. Although the co-op’s lease isn’t up until December 2013, Cohen said the nonprofit organization doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.

“We had more to lose if we didn’t try,” said Cohen. “Could it be sold to someone who’d be very happy to have us here? Maybe. But, maybe not. I didn’t want to take that risk.”

As a result, Cohen and her colleagues embarked on a fundraising campaign called Project We Own It. To date, the co-op itself has put up $50,000 toward the effort while the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation contributed $40,000. The rest, nearly $28,000, has been donated by community members.

“I have total confidence that it is going to happen,” Cohen said.

The Isla Vista Food Co-op opened its first store in 1973 and has been at the Seville Road site for the past 32 years. When UC Santa Barbara is in session, Cohen estimates the co-op draws around 600 customers a day, about 80 percent of them students. Two-thirds of the store’s employees are also students, she said.

“The co-op is so heavily populated by students,” Cohen said. “We need ... to get the community involved in a different way.”

Gayle Schumacher, a 19-year-old UCSB student and weekly shopper at the store, says she has many friends who work at the co-op and who are involved in the fundraising project.

“There are multiple groups on campus that have gotten into (the project),” she said. “We don’t have, like, a really extensive grocery store anywhere around here. It’s cozy and comfortable. It feels kinda homey, and I love that about it.”

John Squires, 62, has been a customer for 10 years and doesn’t want to contemplate the store not being around.

“They are a part of the community, and have been for a long long time,” he said. “It’s like taking (away) Woodstock’s (Pizza).”

Click here to make a donation to Project We Own It, or for more information.

Noozhawk intern Gabriella Slabiak can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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