What's the goss on the new Flatbush Co-Op?
- Poindexter Jul 31, 2007 07:11 AM
So the Flatbush co-op is evidently moving into the much larger space on Cortelyou and Marlborough Road that is being vacated by Associated (R.I.P.-nice people, but of another era in foodstuff retailing). As an unreconstructed fan/9-year member/former squadleader geek at the Park Slope FC who moved to Flatbush and couldn't deal w/the schlepp, this is very good news.
But does anybody have any insight on whether the F'bush Co-Op's basic model will change at all with the move?
On the one hand, I would love to see it adopt a PSFC model where you only shop if you work, as I firmly believe that the personal investment from the shoppers is what makes the PSFC great. The slight mark-down one gets for working at or "joining" the current F'bush co-op is not enough incentive to get most people to work there, so the place resembles an only-slightly-crunchier Back to the Land, with commenserately high prices.
On the other hand, I question whether the nabe has the requisite population density or parking capacity to support a member-owned and operated approach, much as I'd like to see them try it.
Any real insights/thoughts/uninformed speculation out there?
I don't get the Flatbush Food Co-op. When I joined the co-op I marked on the membership form that I wanted to be a working member, but noone ever got in touch with me. I asked about it on my two subsequent visits and essentially got blank stares. They don't seem to want member-workers.
Also, the co-op is prohibitively overpriced, and the produce leaves MUCH to be desired. I can only hope things will change for the better with the move.
As another PSFC member who moved to Flatbush, I have the same hopes that you do.
A few people I know have talked to the owner of the Flatbush Co-op and mentioned things that they are interested in, and said that he seemed genuinely interested and open to any and all suggestions. I even heard some kind of rumor (where?) that he's planning some kind of meeting to find out what the community wants.
I cannot imagine that that the Flatbush Food Coop will go to no shop/no buy. That would be pretty much anti-community in this neck of the woods; so many of the people who shop there are long-hours, low-pay types who would have no time or appetite for putting in hours, even for a discount. That is actually why I really like the Flatbush coop. It is one of the only places in the neighborhood that attracts and serves and (to a large extent) employs a true cross-section of the neighborhood, from Orthodox to Pakistani to Caribbean to former Park Slopers who cashed in on their real estate. The thought of trying to turn it into the Park Slope Food Coop is kind of sickening, though harmless I guess because it would never work and the members (no, it does not have an owner, it has a manager) are smart enough to realize that. (And yes, it is sometimes expensive, especially the produce, but the prices are lower than Back to the Land and there are really good sales.)
While I'm not convinced a PSFC model would work for the FBFC for a variety of practical reasons--e.g. population density/parking, how to effect and finance the transition to a different model--I find almost all of your conclusions and implications baffling:
1. It defies logic to assert that people on the lower end of the economic spectrum wouldn't react favorably to lower prices.
2. The PSFC membership is EXTREMELY diverse, both ethnically and socioeconomically.
3. The PSFC is a pillar of community.
4. To the extent affluent individuals belong to the PSFC, I would submit that few of them got there and stay there by working 9-5.
Dear Poindexters: I am not trying to lessen your love for the Park Slope Food Coop. I'm just saying that most harried people don't have time or childcare to add yet another job to their schedules, even if it results in cheaper food. Food at this point in New York's real estate history makes up a pretty small fraction of a family's overall expenses. And most don't have the desire to drag their children to yet another place to get watched by some strangers so they can work at yet another job. And most people don't want yet another boss. At least that's what I think.
I don't necessarily love the co-op, I'm just trying to understand your argument. Are you saying that the residents of Flatbush are so different from the membership of the PSFC?
I don't think the membership of the PSFC is any more or less harried, hard working, rich or poor than the average Flatbush resident. And the fact that PSFC membership went from about 3800 when I joined to 12,000+ when I left--and has kept growing, I think--suggests to me that your analysis of what "most people" (or at least a significant segment of the population) wants/doesn't want is off the mark.