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Central Co-op poised for return to Tacoma

A closed store sign sits at the driveway at Central Co-op in Tacoma on July 18, 2016. Central Co-op is in negotiations for a new Tacoma market with a deli, coffee shop and expanded food services.
A closed store sign sits at the driveway at Central Co-op in Tacoma on July 18, 2016. Central Co-op is in negotiations for a new Tacoma market with a deli, coffee shop and expanded food services. Staff photographer

Seattle-based Central Co-op is in final negotiations for a new Tacoma market with a deli, coffee shop and other expanded food services.

“My goal is get to this thing opened by the end of the year,” acting CEO Garland McQueen told The News Tribune in an interview before the annual owners meeting Sunday in Seattle, where the announcement was to be made public.

McQueen would not reveal the store’s location until the deal is finalized, expected in May. He said it will be within 3 miles of the old location at 3002 Sixth Avenue in Tacoma.

The previous store was closed in July, six months after it became part of Central Co-op. It was first brought into existence by a group of South Sound residents.

McQueen took the helm of the co-op after the departure of CEO Dan Arnett. At the time of the July closure, Arnett said the co-op couldn’t reach a new lease agreement with building owner Ewald “John” Loesch. Loesch disputed that claim.

The space now is a retail marijuana store.

Tempers flared in meetings organized by the co-op and the ad hoc group, Friends of the Co-Op, after the closure.

Since the arrival of the Atlanta-based co-op consultant in January, McQueen has come close to leasing two other locations in Tacoma, he said. Both deals fell through.

He said he expects no problems with the current negotiations.

“They are going very well so I don’t see much of a problem there,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Friends announced they had formed a leadership team tasked with creating a new Tacoma Food Co-op in partnership with Yelm Food Cooperative.

McQueen said he supports the Friends’ pursuit of a new co-op, but emphasized that the Central Co-op has said from the day of closure that it was going to reopen in Tacoma.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been looking,” McQueen said.

The new Tacoma site will be up to 12,000 square feet. The previous store was 4,600 square feet.

The new store will devote 30 percent of its space to food service: cafe, coffee shop, deli, salad bar, hot bar or some combination of those, and community meeting spaces.

McQueen said he hopes to begin his “aggressive” construction schedule in June.

After the store opens, Central Co-op’s plan is to open another Pierce County location within two years, he said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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