Park Slope Food Co-op: Insane but Cheap

park slope food co-op considers israeli banThis just in: Members of the Park Slope Food Co-op have to put up with all manner of outrageous and bizarre antics from management and other members but they can score great deals on high-quality food, according to a story in today’s New York Daily News. Unless you’re new to Brooklyn, there isn’t too much here you haven’t heard before. A few choice tidbits: Celebrity members Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard wear giant headphones when shopping. Former member Adrian Grenier switched to the Clinton Hill co-op after being sanctioned for missing a work shift. And, most important of all, a helpful tip on how to shop efficiently: “As long as you’re willing to shop late at night to avoid the lines, you can get some great deals,” said one member.
Park Slope Food Co-op and the Holy Kale [NY Daily News]
Photo by wallyg

77 Comment

  • daveinbedstuy

    Even retired i wouldnt put up with all the bullshit…the rules, the lines, etc

  • Wish we had one in Cobble Hill.

  • Really? This old news? So tired of all the complaints about the coop. So what if it is busy? It wouldn’t be if it weren’t any good.

  • Same article as always.

    “finding your inner animal” and “becoming one with the Earth”.

    I can’t even make fun of it anymore.

  • I’m always surprised by the venom the Coop inspires. As a 20-year member, I find it a very, well, cooperative place, valuable for its low prices and terrific selection and admirable in its concerns for social justice, environmental sustainability and community involvement. And believe me, we already have plenty of members. If you’re not interested in joining us, we’re fine with that!

  • If you don’t want to be a part of it, don’t be a part of it. Yeah, the people get a little nutty. It’s Park Slope–you have to go into anything here with a sense of humor. And in the end, it saves me a whole lot of money.

  • As my economist father is fond of saying… Something may be cheap, but everything has a cost.

    And as the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase used to say, “Everybody’s gonna pay!”

  • ZZzzzz.
    True for all NYC: Sometimes you wait in line, sometimes people are crazy.
    Not true for all NYC: great quality produce and products @ great prices.

    Happy that people won’t join, stay away, don’t need more members. Most of the haters never even stepped foot in there anyhow.

  • 18,000 members strong, The Park Slope Food Co-op is the model that most, if not all co-ops across the country look to for inspiration. Sure, it’s not for everyone but neither is this blog and some of the “insane” comments around here. If you think the brownstoner crowd isn’t more bizarre than the Park Slope food co-op crowd, you’ve never been. I’ve seen more insane comments around here than I’ve ever heard in all my years at the co-op.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz who cares?

  • East New York

    “Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase”

    I prefer “Classy” Freddie Blassie myself. “Pencil necked geek!!”

  • dittoburg

    I like to envisage 3 million dollar housebuyers sorting through the cheap turnips.

  • Havemeyer

    It’s been at least a year since I last said this, so I might as well say it again: the PS food co-op “COULD” have used their profitability and massive success to expand to serve other neighborhoods, open up branches elsewhere. Instead, they’re like a really crowded little hothouse flower of correctness, that only exists to help rich people feel better about themselves and their shopping choices.

    I’m not anti-co-op, I grew up doing work shifts at Mariposa in West Philly (which is still running, I think.) But the Park Slope Coop in its current state is just kind of mockable.

    • So you hate the Park Slope food co-op and the people who shop there, but you wish they opened other locations closer to you.

      Okayyyyyy. See what I mean about the insane comments.

      • Havemeyer

        That’s not what I said at all, defensive co-op shopper. I said I liked other co-ops. I do. There’s a great one in Olympia, Washington. Mariposa in Philly… okay, well that’s it. I really like both of those.

        Even if the PS Coop opened more locations, I would probably not shop there regardless, for reasons that are probably not that interesting and have more to do with my not wanting to do two shifts a month than anything ideological.

        However, from an outsider’s perspective it would make a lot more sense if the Coop used their success to EXPAND to serve their members, instead of becoming a byzantine, overcrowded ratwarren of a shopping experience. (I’ve visited.) 18,000 members in, what–5K square feet? And you’re bragging like that’s success?

        Look, I’ve got grocery options. I just feel bad for you, waiting in those huge lines to save a few bucks on turnips. I mean, not that bad, because you seem kind of a little too invested in your food shopping experiences to be fun, but okay.

        • OK – I’m done after this. Heather, get a grip: I’m glad you’ve “visited,” but you obviously have limited/no actual experience there.
          As a long-time member, there’s no need to feel sorry for me – nor do you need to offer-up suggestions on how to run an institution that you seem to dislike so strongly. Thanks but no thanks.

          • Havemeyer

            Okay then! I will offer no more suggestions! Please, continue to let all those poor people who use EBT commute to buy your cheap produce and bulk foods. Everyone driving in from south slope is also totally, totally cool. It’s like you’re Fairway… with a velvet rope. Carry on….

        • Educate yourself before you speak, Heather:

          “the Park Slope co-op last year sold nearly $800,000 worth of food to people receiving public assistance.”

          “Members can earn their monthly volunteer credit outside the store by working in soup kitchens, spearheading blood drives or cleaning up garbage in their neighborhoods.”

          “In trying to alleviate the pressure on the Park Slope store, longtime members like Mr. Holtz are now looking beyond Brooklyn to help other communities replicate their success.”

          “To that end, the Park Slope board recently voted in favor of allowing the store’s members, who hail from all over the city, to earn their work requirement by helping to start food co-ops elsewhere.”

          http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20100418/REG/304189959

          BTW, not all 18,000 shoppers go at the same time.

          • I’ve clean tree pits along 5th and 7th avenues, cleaned garbage from parks, painted light posts and mail boxes. Planted flowers, collected food ( that member purchased) for CHIPS Soup Kitchen. I’ve done all of this in exchange for work credit. These things certainly do not monetarily benefit the coop.
            Litchfieldmansion, you really hit on a very important point. No supermarket or city agency provides healthy choices for people on public assistance. I know there are some who are skeptic about ‘organic’ and the like, however there are folks with serious food allergies and special dietary needs that cannot afford to buy these specialty foods.

          • Havemeyer

            Wait. Supermarkets don’t have gluten-free foods? Sugar-free foods? Produce? Grains? Only the co-op has these things? The thing is, your zeal is actually kind of scary and condescending in a really unflattering way. Could you please stop proving my point?

          • Heather, let me ask you something?

            Do you read? Why would you understand that I said these foods are not found in other supermarkets?

            The coop mark-up is fixed at 23% above wholesale. You local fancy supermarket is on average 100-200% mark-up.

            I guess you never met a person that has special dietary needs but cannot always afford to buy food that would be better for their health.

          • Havemeyer

            Would rent on a few more locations cost those 18,000 members so much more?

    • Simply not true Heather, the do offer assistance to other neighborhoods looking to start food coops. In fact you can earn work credit for helping the various other fledgling coops. Any member knows this.

    • Ignorant comment, Heather. Do you know how many co-op shoppers use EBT and come from less-affluent neighborhoods for the purpose of saving money? Of course you don’t.
      It seems brownstoner only runs this sort of story [as does the daily news] to stir up the ire of trolls like you…

  • anyone know how the greene hill one is?

    • Not very good. Prices are insanely high and selection is limited. I’d give them a few years. The work shifts are shorter, on the plus side.

      • Lothar – are you a member of the Greene Hill Coop? Prices are not as low as the Park Slope Coop, but we don’t yet have the economy of scale that they have. The meat selection is limited and relatively expensive (only organic, local, etc). Everything else seems more than reasonable to me. If by saying “I’d give them a few years” you mean “let others do the work of building an institution, and then I’ll join,” well, you’ll be welcome then, but you would have missed an opportunity to be part of a fun adventure in your neighborhood. Funny so many complain about how too big too self-involved the Park Slope Coop is and yet aren’t willing to get in on the ground floor of a much smaller start-up. Could it be that most of the posters here would never ever join a volunteer run and operated food coop under any circumstances?

  • Everything I hate about people in general exists at the Park Slope Coop. I mean…it is the worst of humanity . An air of elitism combined with a gestapo style school of management with no room for compromise…disgusting. Also a great opportunity for a competitor to sell similar products without the bull right next door.

  • daveinbedstuy

    I love it how the coop supporters get all defensive.

  • I never understand why folks get so worked up over PSFC rules? If you don’t like it, don’t become a member or if you are one and don’t like it, quit.
    It’s a very successful multi-million dollar enterprise that requires rules in order to offer you fancy gourmet and organic stuff for so freakin’ cheap. If you don’t work, you owe a shift, it’s very simple. I’ve found the rules very reasonable and in fact they are very understanding so long as you communicate. Are there quirky folks that you might not want to hang out with, sure. The same can be said about any large group of people.

  • I never joined because it seems so much like the rulesy side of grade school. I see so many of those folks in their orange vests walking shoppers home, which seems kind of pointless to me. I would think it would work better to have paid staff and let the shoppers talk home their own groceries. Just how good are the prices?

    • 40% less, in general. If you compare to a place like Union Market, about 50% less. And much of it is organic and they also carry unique items you can’t find in other stores nearby. But I do agree with you that it’s not for everyone. I guess I just don’t understand the vitriol towards the place. If you don’t like it, don’t go if you think it makes sense for you, go. Some of the generalizations about the people who shop there are downright ignorant though. There are quite a lot of older people on a fixed income who shop there as well as young people in their 20′s who don’t have large incomes and find that the co-op is not only a place to get great food for a good price but to make some friends in the process.

  • I disliked the rules and attitude when I moved to the Slope in 1977 and from what I understand it has only gotten more full of itself. If the coop was interested in social justice and contributing to the community, they would allow people to buy out of their shifts, then hire people at a living wage with benefits to stock shelves, work the registers etc. This would be a benefit to
    all, people with healthcare benefit and living wages tend to stay on the job and actually learn the products and system of the place where they work.

    I don’t have any vitriol or hate for it, but don’t understand the cult like passion it inspires.

    • I think you need to take a look in the mirror, Meezer…
      “Cult like passion?” I don’t sense that in myself or anyone else I’ve come-across at the co op. Sounds like you – and most of the weird ‘I don’t like the co-op & don’t ever go there, but I’ve got lots of opinions about it’ crowd – are projecting plenty of your own issues onto an impersonal entity like the co-op. So, if you’re really interested in creating jobs, go hire yourself a therapist!
      Now, I’ve really got to stop reading this thread…

  • dittoburg

    I’m gonna wait for the Supreme Ct. ruling on this place before I make any more comments. Too controversial by half.

  • Here’s how I see it -new york supermarkets are horrible Fairway is ok but produce isn’t great. Without the co-op I would be spending so much more money on crappy food. I’ve been a co op member for 4 years. Do I like everything about it? Of course not. But I’m going to let you all in in a big secret. 99% of co-op members are normal people. Crazy I know… In 4 years I’ve had two unpleasant encounters in that place. One with staff member, other with shopper. I honestly don’t know where other people shop in Brooklyn. Key Food on 5th, Foodtown in Bedstuy-I know them all and they really suck.Super expensive with so so produce. I shop when lines are small. The PS food coop is not for everyone and never will be ( and I actually like that it upsets so many paranoid non-members who think they know the place)

  • Many posters obviously have no clue on how a coop works. And would folks stop with this foolish objection to rules. What organization doesn’t have rules? In your vocation, if you don’t do your work, what happens? You’re fired! Sounds like some rules to me. Anyone who is every been a member knows there are not a lot of rules to begin with. The main one is simply show up to work or you can’t shop. Why doesn’t this make sense? Mind you, if you miss your shift, you have 1-month to make it up. AND you can also get an extension! If you don’t show up and don’t call, you owe two shifts as a penalty. What happens if you decide not to show up to the office next Monday and don’t call? How long can you do that before you get canned? So the complaint about the rules is absolutely ridiculous. Any friends I know who decided the coop wasn’t for them was simply because they didn’t have the time or they didn’t feel like doing a little manual labor in exchange for cheap prices. Nothing wrong with that If that’s the way you feel.

    • Stop muddying up the thread with logic and rationale. No place for it when it comes to the coop discussion.

    • Havemeyer

      I’m not sure why I bother to respond, but look. Here’s the thing. As evidenced by the number of people you have working at local soup kitchens, or clocking in saying they’re working for other coops, or walking people to their cars as work detail… you have more members than you have work.

      There are a few things that would seem logical to do at this point. Reduce the time worked seems too obvious. Or, let people fill shifts per household–not per adult. For working families, this would be a godsend. Most of us with kids have one person with a more flexible schedule, who would be doing both shifts, and one not. That’s really where you totally lost us forever and a day–you don’t “need” us to work two shifts, you just want us to, because we need to “earn” it. Pretty much in direct counter to any working family who actually has to earn anything at all. 3 hours a month is nothing. 6 hours a month… plus commuting time, is a full day’s work. That’s kind of significant–for us at least, that time outweighs any savings we’d make.

      And while it’s fantastic that you provide childcare, that doesn’t solve every problem for everyone’s situation. Case in point? THe moppet would be fine with your child care. The members of your co-op that I know? Their kids freak out and can’t be left. They hire babysitters… to watch the kids… so they can do co-op shifts.

      As I said, I’ve belonged to other coops. I’m not opposed to the concept. I just don’t understand why the Park Slope coop is such an inefficient behemouth. And, judging by the number of snarky news articles about it, (no, we’re not all just jealous), I’m not alone.

      • “As I said, I’ve belonged to other coops. I’m not opposed to the concept. I just don’t understand why the Park Slope coop is such an inefficient behemouth”

        Face palm.
        Heather, you say you have noting against the concept of coops, but somehow the Park Slope one is inefficient? You have absolutely no factual basis to make this claim. It’s fine to dislike the coop. The issue is making things up that you obviously know nothing about. It’s a little hard to take your opinions seriously when you are wrong on the basic facts.

    • What doesn’t make sense is the rule that all household members work a shift, yet they make an exception for the millions of Slopey brats bred by their members. Why should a 2-adult household have to work 2 shifts same as a 5- or 6-member household of breeder spawn? They also have too many members and not enough work, hence the orange vest brigade

  • daveinbedstuy

    ” then hire people at a living wage with benefits to stock shelves, work the registers etc.”

    They’d unionize in a flash

  • daveinbedstuy

    Thanks parkedslope but I’m retired and have the time. You on the other hand better get to your night job.

  • It works really well for a lot of people – just look at the numbers.

  • I was a member in 1977, I didn’t think the price difference made up for the inflexibiity. I had a corporate job at the time and had 0 flexibility. It sounds like some things have changed, it is great for everyone to have shopping options to suit their needs..

    When I say cultlike, I mean any time I have entertained a large group of area residents and served a good cheese or a slightly unusual vegatable, someone invariably says this is great, I bet you got it at the coop. For a few people it is inconceivable that anything is good if you didn’t buy it at the co-op.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Heather, it’s more of a religion to them. And you know how those people get.

  • daveinbedstuy

    The worship of all things organic and locavore.

  • is the heather and dave show over now?
    starting to get creepy and sad….

  • Heather reminds me of the old adage, opinions are like assholes–everyone has one.

    She obviously has no clue about the Coop, its members, its rules, its operations, the grocery business or anything else I can deduce. Maybe she posts intelligent stuff on other topics–I don’t read every article, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s extremely knowledgeable about at least one topic out there.

    >>And my beloved Fresh Direct.

    Yes. How nice to have someone do all the work for you and you don’t have to even take off your PJs. I really don’t have to read anything past that to determine that you have no clue.

    Regarding the “useless” orange-vested “walkers”–again if you had any f*cking clue about the subject on which you have posted so much blather on today–they walk the carts back to the Coop so the Coop does not have to worry about missing carts (shopping carts cost $200+ — I have no idea why, but ask any manager of a grocery store to confirm). It also prevents cars from blocking a major street next to a busy fire house. People can park where they find a space and know they won’t have to lug stuff by hand. In the old days, people had to give their cards to take a cart and sometimes there would be nearly no carts available to shoppers as people took a long time to drop off their groceries and come back. If the weather was bad, they might hang on to it for hours until it cleared up.

    So, Heather, I will end by saying that I look forward to reading a post of yours on a topic that you actually know more about than what you learn from your dental fillings.

  • P.S. While there are uptight people at the Coop–this is NYC. Do you really expect utopia in a crowded city? The rules aren’t some secret thing that you need to reach OT 7 to learn. You miss a shift, you do a make-up.

    OMG–I think I’ve just had a revelation!!!! (rising up into the air) Hey, it’s L. Ron!

  • I don’t know about you, but to me,mattnyc seems a bit unhinged. Heather is entitled to her opinion and makes some valid points. The Co-op SHOULD open another location, they DO have the funding and the manpower. It just makes logical sense. It would lessen the congestion that you find at peak hours and create more jobs, and let’s face it, the co-op is sitting on a slush fund. As for the vitriol for this place, let’s admit that the co-op has more than its fair share of uptight assholes. Case in point: the guy screaming at me because I answered a mobile phone call while waiting in line to pay (from my babysitter that lasted 5 seconds) and the cashier who refused to take money directly from my hand. Nutty, I tell you. But, I just put my head down and shop away.

    • I’ll admit it felt good to vent, but I wouldn’t say I was unhinged (of course *I* wouldn’t ;). I’ve had my moments at the Coop but as I noted before, this is NYC. If you can go a whole day in this city–walking, taking the subway, working–and not encounter a single lunatic, well, you should immediately buy a lottery ticket.

      So, northslopian, heather, have you put together the spreadsheet to show how feasible it is to open a Coop branch? Scouted out a location? Run all the numbers. I can’t wait to see it presented at a Coop GM. Or in Heather’s case, posted on some blog?

  • infinitejester

    A friend took me in one afternoon on a weekday. There were 15-20 people lined up with shopping carts FILLED with items, like homeless-person filled. The shoppers had sat on the floor and started to just chat amonst themselves like it was a playdate, like you would do if a tree fell over the road and you knew it would be an hour or so to get going again.

  • I live very near the Co-op but I am not a member. The thing that makes me most nuts is the noise! Those clattering metal wagons shaking and jostling along our sidewalks make a huge racket. With the long hours at the Co-op, this noise continues well into the evening.

    And the traffic! The livery cars double parked on Union so they can load groceries, the cars jostling for position up and down the block, the congestion on the weekends in particular is getting really tough.

    I wish the Co-op would just move to another location. They seem to have outgrown their current location and it is putting a strain on the entire neighborhood.

    • that traffic would be there if it was any supermarket. has nothing to do with the coop as an organization.

      • There will always be more traffic on Union Street than say, Carroll or Garfield because it’s a 2-way street. That said, the COOP brings a ton more traffic. And I will go out on a limb and suggest that if the COOP was just a regular supermarket it would not draw the same level of heavy traffic. Shoppers going to a ‘regular’ supermarket are typically local do not need to call car service to get their groceries home.

        My bigger complaint is the NOISE associated with the clattering shopping carts rattling up and down the blocks. Especially the tall carts which are made of heavier metal so there’s more to clatter and rattle. When the walker heads back to the COOP with an empty shopping cart, there is no ballast to keep the thing from rattling and clattering. It is nearly deafening at times.

        My ask is simple – limit the use of these carts to those who have more groceries than they can carry and then on the return, tilt the cart so only the back wheels are in contact with the sidewalk. (for the tall carts which are the noisier of the two types).

  • expert_textpert

    aaaah, the food coop.
    The gift (to Brownstoner) that keeps on giving.

  • expert_textpert

    “P.S. While there are uptight people at the Coop”

    And they all posted on this thread.

  • Havemeyer

    I am not the Heather with the blog, matt. I feel like I should point that out.

  • Just moved to Ditmas Park/Kensington. The Flatbush Coop, while honorable, doesn’t compare to the Park Slope Food Coop. First, it’s full retail and offers minimal to no discount to members these days. Sure, you can invest and benefit from sales, etc., but the PSFC has the volume and business model that makes it possible to purchase off-the-truck, farm fresh everything at only 21% (?) above wholesale. What I can buy at PSFC will cost me 1/3-1/2 more anywhere else. All I had to do was not shop at the coop for one week to see the $100+ difference in prices for a family of two (meat eaters).

    That said, I will remain a working member of the PSFC because the prices are really that good, and it’s like a second home for those of us who’ve been members for a decade, or more.

  • Just moved to the outskirts of Ditmas Park. The Flatbush Coop, while honorable, doesn’t compare to the Park Slope Food Coop. First, it’s full retail and offers minimal to no discount to members these days. Sure, you can invest and benefit from sales, etc., but the PSFC has the volume and business model that makes it possible to purchase off-the-truck, farm fresh everything at only 21% (?) above wholesale. What I can buy at PSFC will cost me 1/3-1/2 more anywhere else. All I had to do was not shop at the coop for one week to see the $100+ difference in prices for a family of two (meat eaters).

    That said, I will remain a working member of the PSFC because the prices are really that good, and it’s like a second home for those of us who’ve been members for a decade, or more.

  • Just moved to Ditmas Park/Kensington. The Flatbush Coop, while honorable, doesn’t compare to the Park Slope Food Coop. First, it’s full retail and offers minimal to no discount to members these days. Sure, you can invest and benefit from sales, etc., but the PSFC has the volume and business model that makes it possible to purchase off-the-truck, farm fresh everything at only 21% (?) above wholesale. What I can buy at PSFC will cost me 1/3-1/2 more anywhere else. All I had to do was not shop at PSFC for one week to see the $100+ difference in prices for a family of two (meat eaters).

    That said, I will remain a working member of the PSFC because the prices are really that good, and it’s like a second home for those of us who’ve been members for a decade, or more.