While the future SunCoast Market Co-Op store location in Silver Strand Plaza is destined to bring more healthy food options to South Bay residents, it’s not expected to open until late summer of 2024. If the market stays on the current timeline for development, it will have taken over eight years to start the co-op in Imperial Beach.
“It takes most co-ops 10 years to get their store open,” says Shannon Ratliff, vice president on the all volunteer co-op board of directors. For now, there’s an open-air market that takes place from 8am to 2pm on the third Saturday of every month. You’ll find food trucks, gourmet cookies, garden and houseplant additions, produce from local growers, and more with a priority to support local vendors.
According to the California Center for Cooperative Development, a food co-op is either member-owned or worker-owned, but decision-making can include both members and workers. SunCoast shoppers can become a member-owner for $200 per household, with financial assistance programs available. The SunCoast mission is “to provide a customer-owned food cooperative offering natural, local, and organic products at reasonable prices while supporting the local economy, providing food education, and advocating for environmentally sustainable practices.”
To produce the monthly farmers’ market model, SunCoast co-op board members like Ratliff have become activists, learning to jump through hoops (i.e. bureacracy and politics) to make this market happen and attract suitable vendors. Market fees are waived for small farmers and food credits are offered to local families to redeem for select grocery items.
SunCoast is approaching 1,000 member-owners with a goal of having 1,400 when the store opens.
There’s another co-op market in San Diego: Ocean Beach People’sOrganic Food Market. Established in the early 1970s as a food-buying club, People’s currently has over 13,000 member-owners and the cost of an annual household membership is only $15. Of the many perks the store has to offer, the People’s vegan deli is a top casual dining destination in our book.
SunCoast Market Co-Op
Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market
Market Explorer: SunCoast Farmers' Market Haul originally published in the spring 2023 issue.