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PARK SLOPE COOP :: Horror stories of the country’s largest member-owned cooperative

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Apparantly there are strong feelings both ways about the CO-OP.

Won't Work for Food
Horror stories of the country’s largest member-owned cooperative grocery store


This story appeared on http://www.Chow.com with some very interesting comments.

Personally, I don't like Politics mixed with my food. I would rather avoid the People's Republic of Park Slope .

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  1. This story wsas posted in CHOW.com, the sister site of Chowhound.

    It is a local story about Brooklyn, where the controversy about the CO-OP has been raging for a long time.

    It is basically about the shopping options for top quality food, produce in particular in an area that is really shopping deprived.

    Since the opening of FAIRWAY in Red Hood, the CO-OP has lost many members. FAIRWAY is a beautiful Supermarket with great produce at low prices, offering things that the "shopping by political correctness" CO-OP does not offer, like accepting Credit Cards and parking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fleur

      many things are great about fariway but the produce is subpar at best.

    2. You said it JonL, thanks!

      And Fleur, I don't think you know what you are talking about. For starters, Park Slope is hardly "really shopping deprived" as you write. Conventional grocery and food specialty stores have gotten quite good around here, although of course they are wildly expensive compared to the Coop, which is a cooperative buyers club and not a commercial venture.

      The PSFC has a healthy abundant membership of close to 13,000 people. It's not the setup for everybody, and it never has been, but that's an awful lot of happy participants getting the best groceries around (direct from the farm where possible) at astonishingly good prices. But you have to have a couple hours to contribute to the community every month.

      Everything is fresh, including dried goods and frozen, since the whole store turns over inventory once a week. It's consistently rated one of the cleanest grocery stores in NYC, and never has that creepy grocery smell. I've been a member for about 12 years and I eat and cook better as a result. And I smell good, too since the upscale toiletries are there for about half the price you'd pay at Fairway... : )

      It's sport for freelance writers to rip on the Coop. That's the Food Media angle.
      These articles are inevitably rife with in accuracies, petty exaggerations, absurd Stalin references and clueless "ooooo LOOK! Cooties!" more often seen in bad exotic travel writing.

      Dozens (not a large % ) have flown the Coop for Fairway, and that's no problem. Fairway is a better option if a parking lot is a top priority -- although the Coop has long had a deal with an indoor lot on the same block for $4 parking for members. The membership is so huge that there's enough labor to have walkers take you home or to your car, and roll the cart back to the store for you.
      For the kind of person who needs to pitch a fit because there's not a place for her SUV at the door, well . . . the Coop is not the place for her.

      The "controversy" is nonsense.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Fleur

        Fleur - "supermarket deprived"? As a long time resident of Carrol Garden's, with numerous friends in the Slope, I can say that this is quite the exaggeration. Although driving to a mega-supermarket in the Hook is right for many, there are plenty of places to go for great foods - even the occassional supermarket (the Key Food on Atlantic and Clinton and the C-Town on 9th Street spring quickly to mind)!

        But isn't the fun of living in Brooklyn going to the great smaller stores for their specialty items? Not only are we lucky enough to have access to great fish, breads, meat and produce, but we are supporting local business owners in a community fast being over run by large chains (sorry, my politics are showing ;) ).

        My favorites:

        Espositos Pork store on Court (President&Union). Great pork products from the old school - George makes his own Sopressata and his sausages are beautiful! This is in addtion to great Italian foods like fresh Mozz, great olives, fresh roasted peppers, etc. And their other meats like steaks, free range chickens and veal are available at very reasonable prices. Try getting that custom cut 2" rib eye at the supermarket . . .

        Staubitz is also good - but a little pricier - on Court in Cobble Hill, with an ever expanding cheese expertise.

        Carrol Gardens Fish Market (Court by President) is under new management and has very good quality at reasonable prices.

        Produce can be had at the always bustling store on Court by Pacific St and at a friendly store on 7th Ave. by 12th street.

        And the numerous new artisanal meat and cheese stores popping up can easily cater to any craving. Tuller & Tuller in Cobble Hill, Union Market and Blue Apron (no relation to the red apron!) in the Slope are fun places to shop or simply browse.

        The amazing BierKraft on 5th Ave. is not to be missed. With their friendly beer fanatic owners and their dediction to great meats and cheeses, one might even call it the perfect store!

        Bottom line: if you are not into the co-op, don't join. We have too many other choices to enjoy at numerous price/quality levels to get heated up over the practices of a single co-op.

      2. Please try to find a more constructive outlet for your anger!

        I quit the coop myself (pre-Fairway) because I found it annoying, but there's no question that it has beautiful food. Also, the membership represents quite a diverse cross section of NY--definitely not all white and rich.

        And another thing-- there is actually a really good grocery store in Park Slope—the 5th Ave Key Foods. It is not Fairway, but it is way beyond decent, and the people who work there are really nice from the management on down. Just yesterday, in fact, I was there and wanted some fresh arugula (the kind in bunches, not in pre-packaged).There was a sign for it in the produce area, but none was there. I asked the produce guys about it and they couldn't find it. Then, 10 minutes later, I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker: "Will the lady who was looking for fresh arugula please come to produce." THey'd found it in the back and wanted to let me know. Naturally, I was thrilled. I got to trade the pale-looking arugula in a plastic box for a super-fresh peppery smelling bright green bunch that still had mud clinging to the roots. (And it was cheaper than the boxed stuff.)

        Oh, and one more thing: calling it the People's Republic of Park Slope is just bizarre. With dreary small apartments going for close to $1 million, theres not much Maoist doctrine being spouted on 7th Ave., at least not that I've noticed.... It's closer to the Brooklyn outpost of Morgan Stanley or some such...

        3 Replies
        1. re: gnosh

          Plus they play great oldies at the Key Food...every time I go, I mean every time, I hear people singing along as they shop...not your usual shopping experience. Key Food is quite decent.

          1. re: prunefeet

            I've been saying nice things about the 5th Ave. Key food for years. The manager there is a real pro, on site almost all the time, making sure things run smoothly. The place gets better and better each year. And I've had the same experience with the music as well. It's just a great place to shop.

            1. re: Bob Martinez

              the fifth ave key is much better then it once was but, for the most part carries very different products then the coop. the produce, for example is your hunts point variety typical in most nyc mkts. the coop sells local and organic produce, much grown in small farms upstate. the produce is far superior and in many cases cheaper.

        2. No discussion of the Co-op would be complete without this -

          Eight years of co-op history.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Thanks for the link.

            The CO-OP and what it represent are part and parcel of the Brooklyn Food Legend. The rest of America just doesn't live this way.

            BTW I have noticed a real improvement at KEY FOOd on Brooklyn Heights since FAIRWAY opened. They are making a huge effort, and the differentce is noticeable.

            1. re: Fleur

              The reason many of us live in Brooklyn is because the rest of America doesn't live the way we do. I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it's very Brooklyn and I'm terribly proud of it.

          2. The Outer Boroughs board is focused on finding deliciousness in New York. While the Co-op is located here, issues related to rules and politics are not about deliciousness.

            We've pruned this thread to posts primarily discussing the relative merits of grocery stores in Brooklyn. If you'd like to discuss co-op politics or working rules, please start a new thread on the Food Media and News board: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/show/33

            1. Just so we're all clear . . . this discussion was started on the Food Media and News board, and was moved to the Outer Boroughs board by the Chowhound Team.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pitu

                No, it was started here on the Outer Boroughs Board and moved to Food Media, then moved back.

              2. For those of us who do not want to participate in the CO-OP kind of experience, the market choice is getting better all the time. So, what are the options?

                KEY FOOD, GRISTEDES, FAIRWAY, GARDEN of EDEN? Among those, supplementing with specialty stores, one can do very well. The produce at G of Eden is very good. The prepared foods in all these places leaves a lot to be desired, and is expensive to boot.

                In any case, if your time is valuable, working 3 hours a month at the CO-OP to save money(6 if you are a couple) makes absolutely no sense.

                1. Then don't. What is the problem?

                  1. Wow, I didn't realize that the Coop brought out so much disagreement...
                    I've been a member for about a year, and like most things, there are some great things about it and some bad.

                    To keep along with Chow's purpose, good food etc.: The cheese section at the Coop is extensive and cheap: you can get Mimolette, Twin Oaks Cheddar, St. Agur Blue for less than half of what it costs at regular stores, which is true for all of the cheese selections.

                    The organic meat: steaks, ribs, chicken etc. is also significantly cheaper than at other grocery stores. The dark choclate, the beer, I could go on and on. My husband and I shop once a week and get enough food for 5 dinners, lunches, snacks, etc,, for around $100.00 for some of the best quality food that is available.

                    Take a $100.00 and see how much you can get at an independently/coperately owned store. They just can't compete. The Coop doesn't pay for labor, the largest cost/overhead to any business. Because of this, the mark-up is about 10-20%, while at other grocery stores it's about 80%, and if we're talking Whole Foods, 110%. I don't mind working 2.5 hours for that, it greatly improves my quality of life. I've also met a lot of cool people, and if your single, well, you might meet a cutie who is also a foodie.