The History of Mountain View Market Co-op

The History of Mountain View Market (2009) - Author Unknown



The Organ Mountain Cooperative promotes good food, good company, and good health for all.


In 1975 on the NMSU campus, a group of health-conscious students decided to pool their resources and create a buying club so they could purchase whole foods at bulk prices.  Together, they could order enough to make it worthwhile for the nearby Tucson Co-operative Warehouse to send a truck over to Las Cruces. They determined what items they would like and ordered in bulk quantities and case lots, then divided them accordingly. Legend has it that the items they sought most were Celestial Seasonings Teas, not yet available in Las Cruces, and bulk whole grains like brown rice and wheat berries, and the ubiquitous co-op 'giant block of cheese'. It was an idea whose time had come, and quickly the operation became so large that it was more practical to open a store: a place where members could buy the wholesome products they needed without the hassle of distributing large purchases. So, they set forth and transformed a little home on Foster Road (just east of Solano, which until recently housed Southwest Fitness Center) into the original Organ Mountain Cooperative. The store was managed by a driven group of individuals who decided upon store policy and set a goal to offer the best health-food products they could to the community. The store was open to the public, meaning anyone could shop there, and that policy has remained throughout the co-op's history.

In order to provide the same money-saving advantages and co-operative spirit for which the original buying club was formed, the members who had originally volunteered their time purchasing and coordinating and distributing the bulk orders now tended the store in exchange for a discount. Two types of discount were available depending upon amount of time worked. One was for "Core Workers"-weekly workers who received the higher discount, and the other was for "Working Members", those who worked monthly. During this era it is said that it was always a struggle to find that working member or core worker who would volunteer for the task of cheese cutting. Administration was by a management collective of three who determined store policy by consensus. That system of management remained intact through two moves and store expansions.

In 1980, the co-op moved to a location at the corner of Picacho and Valley. They shared the new space with a restaurant started by four co-op members called Desert Rose Cafe. Membership structures had changed again by this time to accommodate the large growth. It cost $5 per adult per year to be a member, and Working Members had to work two hours per month, or in households with two adults, three hours, and with three or more adults, four hours. A poster from this era reads: "A Store with Character: Where Mutual Aid is More Important Than Profit, and Each Member is an Owner..." The poster also boasted pot luck dinners, herb walks and other programs that reveal an involved membership. There were orientation meetings monthly to get the working members started, and by this time, a formal Board of Directors was formed and elected by the membership. Many long term co-op members hearken to this location and its restaurant as a sort of golden age for the co-op. The understanding of the co-op model was strong, in that shoppers understood that they'd pay 21 % more than the prices marked if they weren't members, as opposed to today's non-member oriented pricing. In 1984, the co-op moved to another Foster Road location, just south of the current location. Staff from the time reminisce about the exciting development of having a real walk-in cooler for the first time, jettisoning the co-op into the 21st century! Archival photos from the time reveal that co-op spirit was strong, with large outdoor gatherings including cookouts and live music, and many smiling faces.

In 1993, the co-op moved just a short leap away to the Idaho Crossings Center. The move was accomplished mainly with shopping carts and members' sweat. For unknown reasons, the store was renamed several times. When the store moved to the Idaho Crossings location, it was renamed Co-op Market, some say to make it clear to passers-by that it was a Market that was open to the public. Soon thereafter, management and board worried that the word "Co-op" drove people away due to the feeling of exclusivity or even lack of knowledge of co-ops, and the name Mountain View Market was voted upon. The name was adopted as part of an expansion and grand re-opening into the current space. The co-op expanded from the 3500 square foot section currently housing offices, receiving area, community room and cafe into the current 11,000 square-foot space. Members and Board Members pitched in by scraping away the old linoleum, giving free massages to hardworking staff, and hauling shelves and stock to their new locations. Large fire doors were installed to keep us up to code, and paint colors voted upon by the Board covered the former Hastings video wall lettering.

After a bumpy beginning in this very large space, the co-op began to thrive once more. Despite the many name changes and moves, co-op spirit continues to shine through, as members of the community new and old still refer to us as just plain, "The Co-op". The word co-op enters more and more into shoppers' consciousness with window signage painted by members reminds those who enter that our store is more than just a place to buy food. Within the store, details of the co-operative principles are posted. Education of staff and the community as to the values of co-ops is ongoing.

In October of 2006, we installed our first point-of-sale system which allowed us to replace registers with updated computers and product scanners. These changes allowed for more efficient and accurate customer sales, and the ability to produce sales and movement reports that helped better manage inventory. In 2007, we added some color to the store by painting the four walls of the main sales floor four different colors. Ironically, the colors we chose all had food in their names; banana peel, asparagus, roasted red pepper, and plum walls created a vibrant offset to gray cement floors. Black chalkboard paintings provide nice accents.

The addition of energy-efficient lighting and a corrugated steel wall to separate back stock contributed to the brightening of what was previously a dimly lit, grayish haze in the store. Moving the Produce Department from the rear, south corner closer to the front entrance gave us more of a grocery store “feel.” It was at this time that we added another walk-in refrigerator and increased the number of freezer doors from 8 to 15, thus allowing us to expand the dairy and frozen food sections to meet customer demand. Finally, the Grab & Go Department was created to offer fresh vegetable salads, home-made sandwiches, and cookies and muffins.

We partnered with one of our members in 2007 to create an demonstration garden in nearby Mesilla to encourage local food production. We helped by soliciting volunteers for this garden, which produced food for the co-op and provided a model for school children, and garden enthusiasts. In 2008, we opened a Growers’ Market in our parking lot in an effort to promote and support locally-grown produce and local food production which served as a vending outlet for local farmers and gardeners.

January 2009 marked the beginning of the patronage rebate era for the co-op. We replaced our previous discount at purchase policy with patronage rebate to ensure that we were covering our fiscal responsibilities and protecting the financial standing of the co-op before disbursing profits as discounts.

Education and outreach programs are ever-expanding, reaching at-risk children, senior church groups, and all points in between. Mountain View Market continues to work towards and achieving its goals for creating a beacon of sustainability, empowering employment, local economic stability, and promoting the cooperative model.

Currently, the co-op's membership consists of 6,400 members, though it is estimated that only 3,400 of them regularly shop here. The co-op's product emphasis continues to be on wholesome, high-quality natural foods. Additionally, the co-op works to educate consumers about foods and nutrition and to promote local and organic products and producers. Mountain View Market also networks with other cooperative businesses to encourage an economic environment that benefits all consumers.