When it comes to the Park Slope Food Coop, unbelievers are everywhere. They say that there are too many rules, which are too stridently enforced. They complain about crowded aisles and long lines. They resent having to work 2 1/2 hours once a month. They even go so far as to call the Coop a cult that only crazy people would join.
We admit it. There is some truth to these complaints about the members-only Coop.
So why is it still our favorite place to buy groceries in Brooklyn?
Our #1 reason is the produce. As opposed to a pitiful 30-feet of shrink-wrapped out-of season fruits and vegetables at our local market, the Coop abounds with incredibly fresh, mostly organic, and frequently local produce. Here is where we come to discover new fruits and veggies, like sapodillas, cactus pears, and cherimoyas.
The website's weekly produce list, complete with prices, allows you to plan ahead. And those prices are awesome. As opposed to an average 40% markup at "regular" supermarkets, and 60% markup at health food stores, Coop prices are only 21% over wholesale. This week, organic potatoes are $0.92/pound, arugula is $0.96/bunch and even Israeli persimmons are only $0.68 apiece.
After the produce, we head straight for the cheese case. Bought in bulk and repackaged, the gourmet cheeses are actually affordable. You don't feel sheepish buying a snack-sized 2.5 ounces of garrootxa for $1.76. Our cheese platters have never been more diverse.
With just 6000 square feet, the Coop doesn't have everything. But it is a great place to buy the basics and specialty foods, like D'artagnan sausages, truffle butter, and Amish stewing chickens. We first found our favorite Ludomar dark milk chocolate, flavored with black pepper and sesame, amongst the 5000 products on Coop shelves.
It's true, we could shop at Fairway or Whole Foods with less hassle. But lacking a car, the coop is far more convenient. Combine that convenience with significantly lower prices and strong community values, and the Coop is worth a little hassle and the ire of the unbelievers.
All photos by Nina Callaway