By Tyler Allen
The health of a city can often be
measured by taking the pulse of its
downtown, and most Bozemanites can
agree that keeping Main Street vital to
the community is important as the city
grows. Downtown is a meeting place
for both locals and visitors, as well as a
walkable place to shop and eat. Since it
opened in April 2011, the new Co-op
Downtown has encouraged these aspects
of the Main Street experience and
offered a place to get “good food fast.”

The Co-op Downtown offers a hot food
and salad bar all at a flat rate per pound,
a departure from the model used at the
West Main store where every dish is
priced differently and weighed independently.

The intent was to “make
things speedy,” said Wendy Westmoreland,
the Co-op’s marketing director.
They were trying to avoid the bottleneck
that can occur at the original store
during busy lunch hours, she added.

Though many people would prefer to
keep our dollars in the community and
invested in food free of chemicals, high
cost is usually a deterrent to buying
local and organic. Construction of the
downtown store was motivated partly
by the Co-op’s Board of Directors’
intent to create another outlet offering
local and organic foods. Selling more of
this food increases their buying power,
and in turn decreases the cost to the

The Main Street location was chosen
because it has the potential to serve the
most people, and because of the likelihood
it would help satisfy the Co-op’s
“cooperative business model,” which
states that the community owning
a business and being invested in its
growth gives it the best chance to succeed.

The Co-op offered high interest
loans to members who wanted to help
build the new store, and they reached
their federally-permitted limit within
six weeks.

Reaction to the Downtown Co-op has
been mostly positive.

“It’s easy to run down there and grab a
quick, healthy lunch,” said Amy Kirkland,
owner of Altitude Gallery, which
is a block away from the new store. It
has brought more business to downtown
shops like hers and is bringing
locals back to Main Street, she added.

In addition, the local food offered is in
keeping with the spirit of downtown
Bozeman, where locally owned businesses

The first couple of weeks the Downtown
Co-op was open, it hurt lunch
business at Main Street Overeasy, but
now the honeymoon period seems to
be over, said Josh Sponsler, the restaurant’s
manager. “The more foot traffic
downtown, the better,” he added.

The downtown store is more focused
on quality fast food than providing
space for grocery items, but produce
and staples are offered as well. The
“Good to Go” case occupies a large
cooler along the wall and holds prepackaged
food like Curry Lime Chicken
Salad or Vietnamese Rice Noodles, as
well as cold deli sandwiches. The salad
bar is at least twice the size of the one in
the West Main store, and there is ample
space between it and the hot bar for
patrons to move.

The 40-seat dining area takes up a significant
amount of space, giving diners
a cafeteria-style experience. Large photos
of local food producers hanging on
the walls serve as a friendly reminder
that you are supporting your neighbors
when you sit down for a meal at the Coop

Tyler Allen writes from Bozeman.