First Alternative was founded in 1970 by a group of 100 concerned citizens and Oregon State University students.
They were committed to offering education for people who wanted to adopt healthier lifestyles and who also wanted a source of high quality, nutritious foods at the lowest possible prices. The Co-op found its first home in a house on 4th Street in downtown Corvallis. After 4 years in the downtown location the Co-op moved to the current South Store location on SE 3rd Street. Prior to being the Co-op, the buildings on the property included a burger shack, an auto body shop, houses, and “The Stein Tavern.”
The Co-op continued to grow in members and in sales numbers. Perhaps thanks to finally paving its parking lot a year before, in 1981 the Co-op had its first year with over a million dollars in sales. It was the first co-op in Oregon to reach this benchmark. The 1980’s brought significant changes including the addition of produce, shopping carts, beer, wine, the first advertising campaign, and the first General Manager.
By the early 90’s the Co-op was selling over $3 million in groceries each year. Staffing continued to grow to meet the demand for increased products and services. The Co-op began to give generous donations to local non-profits through a 1% for Corvallis program. Another remodel and expansion was completed and by the end of the decade the Co-op was serving the community great food made on site and served at the new Feast Alternative Deli.
In 2000 the General Manager resigned and Michele Adams was hired to fill the position. In the 11 years Michele served as our GM, the Co-op grew from $4 million in annual sales to over $15 million. In 2003 the North Store location was opened and in 2006 we were honored to receive Business of the Year and The Best Grocery Store in Corvallis awards. In 2008 the Co-op celebrated the announcement of the expansion of the North Store location; the expansion opened in Spring 2009. In 2010 the Co-op reached over 7,000 owners! In January 2011, Michele stepped down from her General Manager position to work in a staff position in the Co-op, and Cindee Lolik, from Albany, New York, was hired as our new General Manager. Cindee brought with her many years of co-op and natural foods experience – we look forward to many years of working under her able guidance!
As we look toward the future we will continue to strive to be a cooperative model, providing natural and organic food in community-oriented stores.