Harvest Co-Op Will Close Both Boston-Area Stores This Month

Despite efforts to restore financial solvency, the Cambridge and Jamaica Plain markets continue to lose money every day.

Harvest Co-Op Market in Jamaica Plain

Harvest Co-Op Market in Jamaica Plain. / Photo via Harvest Co-Op on Facebook

It’s time to use any Harvest Co-Op gift cards you might be hoarding: Both natural food markets in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain will close within the next two weeks, the Harvest board of directors told members today.

The news comes almost six months after Harvest Co-Op informed its community of a 90-day plan to save the two stores. To build up the bank, Harvest board members asked the public in May to shop the markets more frequently, buy gift cards then hold onto them, and pay in cash.

In July, Jamaica Plain News reported that Harvest was exploring the possibility of selling its assets to the National Co+op Grocers, a business services cooperative for retail cooperative grocery stores.

“We learned a few days ago that NCG determined that they would not be submitting a proposal for us to consider,” the board said today in an email newsletter to members. “In light of this fact, and the reality that we have no other viable options to rescue the Co-op, the Board has determined that the most responsible act is to close the stores in order to get the most value out of our assets to address as much of our financial obligations as possible.”

Over the next 7-14 days, it will “wind down” business at both stores with going-out-of-business sales. The board encourages its member-owners, and the general public, to keep shopping there in the meantime, as the stores are continuously losing money and Harvest owes debt to numerous creditors. Harvest employees will be paid as usual for the final couple weeks, the board confirmed.

Harvest’s “significant cash flow problem” first came to light in the Boston Globe in 2017, largely due to natural and organic food being more readily available at conventional grocery stores. The board reiterated that reason in today’s announcement.

“During the past decade, the retail organic/natural food landscape has changed drastically with more competitors, including the larger conventional chains placing much more emphasis on the organic/natural products arena. This changing marketplace has created a decline in sales for our Co-op that has intensified over the last two years, and the trend continues,” the letter reads. “We have put many cost controls into place, reducing purchasing and labor costs. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked. Sales continue to drop, and Harvest continues to lose significant money each month.”

Harvest Co-Op debuted in Cambridge in 1974, and in 2012 relocated to a different storefront in Central Square to make way for a location of H-Mart. In Jamaica Plain, Harvest had a store on South Street, opened a larger market near Forest Hills in 2012, then closed its original spot in 2015.

The Harvest board will update its community via social media about farewell parties and closing dates over the next couple of weeks. If members have additional questions, the board’s final meeting on Monday, Oct. 8, is devoted to a member-owner question-and-answer session. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Jamaica Plain.

After thanking its member-owners and other customers, the Harvest board ended its announcement on a high note. “We are proud of our legacy of providing jobs and keeping our local economy strong while providing unique and healthy food.”

580 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-1580; 3815 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-405-5300, harvest.coop.