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Good Foods GM resigns; Co-op announces they're considering layoffs and reduced member benefits

Clay Wallace

Last week, the general manager of Good Foods Co-op resigned. Dean Sparks was hired two months ago, after a national search. As WUKY's Alan Lytle reports the financially troubled co-op is turning in-house to name a replacement. Holly Deering had served as interim GM during the Co-op’s initial search; now, Good Foods will make her position permanent.

“To me, it’s all about community," said Deering. "I’m a Lafayette High School graduate, so the Co-op’s the place I go for food, for community, for everything that these big corporations lack in a grocery store environment.”

Deering has held multiple positions within the Co-op, having been initially employed as a wellness clerk and, most recently, store manager. She has served as an admin assistant with the Good Foods Board and has worked closely with National Co+op Grocers.

“Developing a deep relationship with these people has given me the knowledge, the credibility, to help steer us in the right direction, to be more community focused, bring in the products that we know are going to bring revenue to the Co-op," said Deering.

Her new role comes during a time of financial strain for Good Foods. Board President Steve Kay said the Co-op is in crisis following a year of unexpected expenses and one-time costs, including maintenance issues with the store’s refrigeration system, road closures which temporarily drove away traffic, and attorney fees from union negotiation.

"We went through a process of unionization," said Kay. "We had attorneys fees which approached $100,000 in order to get the guidance we needed to do that in a fair and equitable way."
Earlier this month, Good Foods sent an email to owners asking them to participate in a loan program, lending working capital to the Co-op for a term of 3-to-4 years at up to 4.5 percent interest. Today, Good Foods announced it will further attempt to save costs by reducing its staff through layoffs and suspending the 10% monthly discount offered to owners.

"We believe that that will be successful," said Kay. "It will give us the operating capital we need and we won't have to consider much more drastic measures. We'd like not to consider much more drastic measures. We'd like not to consider layoffs but, in the short term, we don't see an alternative to that."

Kay said this isn’t the first time Good Foods has found itself in an existential crisis. Three decades ago, the Co-op had to move from its Woodhill location.

"The Co-op was basically not doing well at all, and facing closure and extinction and did not have the capital to move, but raised the money from its members and owners to move to Southland," said Kay. "People were committed to addressing the issue, taking the chance, believing that if we moved to Southland, we would be able to make the Co-op go."

Kay said, so far, the owner loan program has raised 10% of its $200,000 goal. Good Foods is also seeking a loan from National Co+op Grocers, with which they are an owner member.
Good Foods is a past and current underwriter for WUKY.

Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.