Business

A Bellingham grocery store could close soon. Here's what it is doing to stay open

Brittany Beug, Terra Organic and Natural Foods employee, carries a detached shelf while consolidating items from aisle end caps on Friday, May 11, in Bellingham.
Brittany Beug, Terra Organic and Natural Foods employee, carries a detached shelf while consolidating items from aisle end caps on Friday, May 11, in Bellingham. evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

A longtime downtown grocery store is in danger of closing for good this month.

Stephen Trinkaus posted an update about Terra Organic & Natural Foods on Facebook, saying the store is a little more than a week away from closing unless it can generate some extra sales. In the post he appealed to customers to swing by and buy products, saying that doing so would help them institute a plan that would not only save the store but the other tenants in the Bellingham Public Market, which is at 1530 Cornwall Ave.

Because of the way the lease is set up, if Terra were to close and someone didn't take over the lease, the other tenants at the market would need to leave. Other tenants at the market include Ambo Ethiopian Cuisine, Film is Truth and Electric Beet Juice Co.

If Trinkaus is successful at keeping Terra operating, he has a plan in place he thinks will help the entire market survive. Those plans include shrinking the size of Terra and using the extra space to lease to other tenants, creating a more diverse market with more vendors. The new and smaller Terra would also have a new management board that would include Terra employees, investors and community members. Trinkaus would then focus on finding new tenants and managing the overall public market.

In a phone interview, Trinkaus said the business is also instituting some new plans in order to save money. A new point-of-sale system was recently installed and the store is working with Puget Sound Energy to install more efficient lighting.

Several factors have led Terra to this point, most of which are related to what has become a very competitive market for natural foods in Bellingham, Trinkaus said. Not only have new stores like Whole Foods entered the market in recent years, but online shopping for this segment continues to grow.

The company has been in business for 21 years, going through expansions and contractions. It nearly closed in August 2012, but community support during that period helped the store stay afloat.

Community member Joan Ging has started a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise $50,000 for  Terra.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
  Comments