It’s been five months since the Missoula Community Food Co-op permanently closed, but the empty space in the Burns Street building where it once operated still holds shelving, appliances and fixtures. Those items represent about $7,000 of the co-op’s $21,000 in assets, according to the co-op’s April 10 bankruptcy filing.
In November, when the co-op’s closure was announced, its board recommended that members vote to declare bankruptcy and receive the associated legal protections, rather than dissolve the co-op or reorganize as a buyers’ club. The vote went as the board recommended, and in mid-December the board approved a resolution to proceed with bankruptcy.
The filing documents list liabilities of just over $147,000, including outstanding bills from suppliers and bookkeepers, tax and workers’ compensation liabilities and more than $37,000 in loans from co-op members. The estimated $21,000 in assets will be used to pay off priority claims, like outstanding tax bills, first.
It’s definitely not enough to satisfy the co-op’s single largest outstanding balance: $28,220.17 owed to the co-op’s former landlord, the North Missoula Community Development Corporation. In a section of the bankruptcy filing that asks whether any property needs immediate attention, co-op representatives checked “yes” and wrote, “Landlord wants the shelving and other items out of the space as soon as possible.”
Attorney Christy Brandon is serving as the bankruptcy trustee for the co-op, and she tells the Indy that the left-behind property has lingered while board members worked to get it in “ship-shape.” Brandon has engaged the services of an auctioneer to sell off the remaining items at an on-site public auction on June 1. Items to be sold include “a glass door freezer valued around $2500 that will be very difficult to move, a stainless freezer valued around $1500, a commercial coffee grinder at $600, two safes, $500 each, and the dry goods bulk containers, $1200-$1500 for all of them,” according to filing documents.
Those items are now part of the co-op’s bankruptcy proceedings and won’t be going anywhere until the auction. That they are still occupying space in the building means the co-op could “possibly” continue to owe rent to NMCDC until they’re off the premises, Brandon says. NMCDC declined to comment for this story. Co-op board member Jessica Glebke said that she believed they were still being charged rent for the space. A meeting of creditors is scheduled to take place at the Hilton Garden Inn on Monday, May 7, at 3 p.m. Portico Real Estate is marketing the space at a rate of $9 per square foot. Along with NMCDC, the building houses the Western Montana Growers Co-op and Burns St. Bistro.