The Good Food Store?
Yes, that was the Moscow Food Co-op’s original name, in place for the first two years of our operation. It was a simple and clear declaration of our mission when we first opened our doors in 1973.
This photo of the original sign and some of our earliest Co-op owners was taken some time in late 1974 at our first location: 112 East 2nd Street. And who exactly are these folks? We know they are among our first owners, and we would love it if our readers could help us identify anyone from this happy cooperative bunch. The initial quest has only clarified whom a few of these folks are not, despite some strong similarities.
Sandy Cruise, known to many as Sandy Ogle before she married and moved away from Moscow, has been an enthusiastic resource from our early days. She began working at the Co-op in September 1975 and moved on in early 1977. But even Sandy does not recognize anyone in the photo, taken just a year before she began working at the Co-op.
She writes: “We had a lot of turnover since pretty much everyone was a student from out of town until I came along.”
Sandy is the daughter of Ivan Ogle and Ruth Morton, who married in 1932 and took on the Ogle family farm in Blaine, Idaho before starting their family of four. A graduate of Moscow High School, Sandy was one of three paid staff who each worked about 20 hours a week in the store back then. Called “co-managers,” the staff would rotate so that one of them was almost always in the store to coordinate the volunteers who helped stock shelves, clean the store, and run the registers. She recalls earning about $200 a month.
In 1975, we moved to our second home at 610 South Main and officially changed our name to the Moscow Food Co-op. This is directly across Main Street from the Fire Station, just around the corner from Maialina Pizzeria. Sandy recalls a long, narrow storefront with shelves on each wall and two aisles in between, with a cooler for veggies in the front and one for cheese and other dairy in the back. At this time, the Co-op did not sell meat, alcohol, or frozen foods. Almost all but a few items were sold in bulk.
Confidence and patronage was growing, but we still had a fair amount to learn about running a grocery store, as Sandy attests with a humorous memory from that era (which we’re happy to say is far from current practice): She recalls staff and volunteers storing a five gallon bucket of peanut butter in the bathroom because that was where they could use an outlet for warming the butter. The bucket was wrapped with some sort of heating tape contraption, making it possible for customers to stir the peanut butter and fill their bulk containers.
Tight quarters do lead to creative solutions, but alas this one did not impress the food inspector and an alternative had to be found! Yes, more space was needed, and in 1978, shortly after Sandy left Moscow, the Co-op moved and expanded into a larger location at 314 South Washington.
We would love your help with gathering more stories from the 1970s and identifying any of these mysterious “Good Food Store” owners. (And don’t worry, we won’t hold anyone accountable for the peanut butter fiasco!) Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.