Below is a letter from Stephen Trinkaus, owner of Terra Organica and Bellingham Public Market on Cornwall Avenue. It’s a plea to the community to help with a boost in sales or else the business (and the market) will have to close.
In a phone interview, Trinkaus said the origin of the financial crunch took place after making a series of improvements to the business and the market, including new bulk bins, buying one of the businesses in the store, starting another business and doing some renovation work.
“Looking back, I can see I did a little more than I should have,” Trinkaus said. “I thought we could scrape by during the summer, (typically a slow time of year for the market) and get to the fall, when sales always pick up. This time the hole is too deep.”
At this point Trinkaus can’t turn to banks for loans and believes that taking on further debt would merely postpone a closure a little later. He’s hoping instead that sales could improve to a point similar to before the recession started in the coming months to help through this rough patch.
Along with Terra Organica, Trinkaus owns Seven Loaves Pizzeria and the cafe Trapeze. Other businesses in the market include Living Earth Herbs, Makizushi, Juice-It and Mount Baker Books.
“If it was just my family, that’s one thing, but there are employees involved,” Trinkaus said. “There has been a lot of tears from employees who enjoy working here.”
Here’s Trinkaus’ letter that was posted on Facebook (unedited):
I am writing this because Terra Organica is on the brink of going out of business and we need your help.
A Terra Organica bankruptcy would bring down the whole Public Market. Up to sixty people could lose their jobs, we would default on our existing debt, and the community would lose a precious gem. Our simple request: Please vote with your dollars to keep Terra Organica open. If we can generate enough business in the next three to six months, we will be able to stay in business.
The farmers, bakers, food processors, distributors and other suppliers far and wide – people with whom we have developed long standing relationships of trust and mutual support, are all depending on us to keep the dream alive. A closure of Terra Organica will put other farms and businesses at risk as well.
We need the community to shop here IN DROVES starting immediately. I probably should have written this plea a few weeks ago, but I thought we could make it until September when our business picks up after our normally slow summer. However, things have unraveled in the past week and now our situation is dire. Lots of people shopping here now will mean we can stay in business. If that does not materialize, we are done. Please spread the word. PLEASE share this with your other Facebook friends.
In hindsight I can say that we overextended ourselves financially in the past year by buying Seven Loaves Pizzeria, starting Trapeze Café & Deli, and by investing in new equipment (such as new bulk bins) and energy efficiency retrofits (like LED lighting in our coolers, freezers and spotlights). We attempted much at once in a weak economy. While our core business model remains sound, we need about six months of booming sales to get us back on track.
Of course, we experience none of this struggle in a vacuum. We live in a system based on an economy that rewards cutting corners, deceptive marketing, and externalizing social, health and environmental costs. We deserve better and through Terra Organica I have worked to create a new paradigm for all of us.
Fifteen years ago, when Terra Organica opened, we promised to avoid GMOs, to support organic producers, and to “do the research” on every single product we put on our shelves. We prohibited high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, hydrogenated oil, SLS, MSG, and a long list of other unhealthy and toxic substances found in every other grocery store in Bellingham. We are not big, flashy or fancy, but we do raise hell and we have blazed a trail that others follow. Every day, we help hundreds of people find the foods and products they need to stay healthy and to create a positive impact on the planet.
Much still works strongly in our favor: everyone must eat, everyone wants to be healthy, and we provide the healthiest food out there. We enjoy some of the most loyal and dedicated customers a business could ask for. We remain price competitive and will match any local competitor’s price on any product. We employ a great staff, all of whom go out of their way to help customers. Terra Organica adds a unique and valuable community centerpiece to Bellingham that would be sorely missed if let go.
If you agree, please support us by committing to doing all (or most) of your grocery shopping here over the next three to six months, and ask your friends and family members to do the same.
With deep appreciation,
Terra Organica & The Bellingham Public Market
(Please don’t hesitate to call, email or stop by!)