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June 27, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Park Slope Food Co-Op? Is it worth it?

I'll be moving to Park Slope and will be about a block away from the Park Slope Food Co-op in a few weeks. Is it actually worth it?

We will be taking the orientation to get a better idea of it, but I'd like to know if others have had good or bad experiences being a member.
posted by Threeway Handshake to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine was and dropped out, however the main issue for her was the distance between the co-op, the train and her house. However, she also said that there was nothing there worth the labor that she couldn't find at the farmer's market.
posted by griphus at 7:48 AM on June 27, 2011

(NB: She's a vegan.)
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on June 27, 2011

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

The prices are quite good. They're barely marked up from wholesale price - mostly because the coop only has a handful of operational staff, and much of its labor is from members working your 3hr shift once every four weeks.

Their cheese and their produce is fucking terrific. Their meat, too, probably, but I don't know since I don't eat meat. Plus a good bulk section.

It's a little crowded and hectic in there sometimes, particularly at peak hours. Bonus points if you or one of your partners/roommates/whatevers doesn't have a 9-5 and can go at certain off hours.

They're pretty strict about working your workshift - miss one and you need to work two to make it up - but it's not hard to do and since you live a block away it's pretty hard for it to be inconvenient.
posted by entropone at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A good friend of mine was a member while she lived in Brooklyn and she definitely liked it. She was always saying that it was a good deal for spices and tea and such. I have considered joining but live a bit far. I would think if you're moving a block away you have nothing to lose.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:59 AM on June 27, 2011

this has been posted multiple times on ask.mefi...
posted by fozzie33 at 8:00 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a member for one year. I enjoyed the workshifts and the food and prices were great (much lower cost than greenmarket), but it was difficult to actually buy anything because of the crowds and long lines.
posted by moonmilk at 8:10 AM on June 27, 2011

It depends...

I signed up and was so happy- the food is so good! And so cheap! But then I quit after a few months bc the lines were just too long. People are trying to be 'nice' and let other people in line and it is just crowded and frankly annoying IF you have to go at peak (when regular-houred people are off work) times. Also, I didn't like my shift work- answering phones and dealing with byzantine (if that's the right word) card catalogue system of hundreds (thousands) of members/volunteers. And it seemed to roll around far too often! Also, I didn't like waiting in the giant lines (which I know, I already mentioned) to buy the relatively small amounts of food I purchase at a time- a few tomatoes, some cheese etc was NOT worth the headache.

BUT if you have a more free schedule, and you buy a lot of food and you pick a better 'type' of may love it.
posted by bquarters at 8:17 AM on June 27, 2011

I was a member but dropped out. I found that I spent more money there, because the prices were so good that I would buy the really nice things because they were just barely out of my budget, rather than way out of my budget as they usually were.

I also found the community to be disappointing; the management seemed to be a lot of smug, self-righteous, middle-aged white liberals who bought into a lot of greenwashing crap and weren't well attuned to the needs of less affluent and/or less priveleged co-op members.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:22 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've never been a member, but have heard innumerable complaints about its operations and internal politics.
posted by dfriedman at 8:54 AM on June 27, 2011

been a member for about 8 years, and have always lived at least a couple miles away -- if i lived a block away, i would probably shop there every day.

the high quality, high turnover, and low markup (i think it's currently at 21%, which is ridiculous) make the bang for the buck quotient go through the roof.

it's worth it despite the crowds, the assholes, and the soviet-style politics.

if you join, make sure to read anything albert solomon writes in the linewaiter's gazette.
posted by beukeboom at 8:55 AM on June 27, 2011

I live several miles away and I still think it's worth it. Yeah, make-ups suck, yeah, the lines are long, but it's a CO-OP, not Whole Foods. The idea is that you work there and have part-ownership, with all the ups and downs that entails. I think the key is getting a workshift you like. After orientation, there will probably be nothing *immediately* available that calls out to you, but ask to be put on the waiting list for something that does. I did one shift on receiving (ick) before I got moved to my first choice (food processing), which, yay! I cut and wrap delicious cheese once every four weeks, listen to music, and chat with people I generally like. NBD.

The prices are ridiculous and the quality is very good given we're on the East Coast.

The culture is definitely quirky, but again, if you want streamlined/corporate/robo-efficiency, shop at TJ's or Whole Foods. I hear there's one coming to Gowanus.

Yours in cooperation,

posted by sideofwry at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been a member for about six years, and I think it's worth it (prices, quality, friendliness, it's a coop) despite the annoyances (long lines at peak times, work shifts are sometimes annoying, most people are extremely nice but some are not, like everywhere). You can read endless condemnations of the Coop in all kinds of places (New York Times, neighborhood blogs/listservs, here on ask mefi)--I think they're really over-wrought and people who don't like the Coop should just shop elsewhere, it's already way too crowded, so hurray for us.

But the only way to know if it will work for you is to try it and see. You can always drop out if you don't like it.
posted by agent99 at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's very worth it — it's a one-of-a-kind institution. Sure, there are some obnoxious rules-lawyery people around, but on the whole, it often seems to me like the friendliest place in New York.
posted by RogerB at 9:58 AM on June 27, 2011

Best answer: I loved it for the year or so I did it, before we moved to California.

I *liked* my card-catalog office job (there are several different kinds of jobs with the card catalog) because if I worked fast enough, I could get it done in half the time of my shift and then just go home.

I still miss some of the cheap food there, especially the bulk section (including the dried fruit), the in-season vegetables, and the cheeses.

And for a different perspective on the management style: I worked in the office in earshot of the day-to-day running of the place. The management struck me as extraordinarily forgiving, going out of its way to give people breaks, give them one more chance, to arbitrarily reduce the number of shifts they owed (even wiping the slate clean for people who had semi-plausible stories of personal tragedy or made it plain that they had recently become very hard up), and to take abuse from frustrated members who felt they were wronged. I never saw any high-handedness from management. What I heard most days were demanding, self-centered members who thought they were the exception to some rule, and who did not hesitate to complain, shout, bitch, curse, and so forth until they got their way. And they were often given their way -- and they would've been given their way if they had been nice about it, too.

What the office workers did not abide were serial abusers of that goodwill. Too many people didn't realize that every time the owed shifts were cleared a note was made, so they thought they could just ask again in a couple of months, using the same sad tale they told before. They also did not abide thieves.

There's a spirit of goodwill and caring there, mostly, despite the crowds and lines. I once dropped an envelope there that held $1500 in cash on the store floor and it was returned to me a few minutes later. People were often willing to trade shifts or to help each other finish theirs if the work could be shared.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2011

Yes, worth it, especially since it's so close. I was a member for a few years until I moved away from NYC and I still miss it. I used to get terrible sticker shock at the grocery store when I first left. It really is a better deal and I don't think less than three hours a month of work is that onerous. (I was also in food processing, and it was really fun--try to get that! Much better than stocking veggies.)

Also, it's a co-op, not the army. If you try it for a few months and it's not working for you, you can leave! And they'll give your deposit back.
posted by min at 4:34 PM on June 27, 2011

I dislike the co-op intensely, but if I lived a block away, I would suck it up and join. It's your best food shopping option in the area.

Note that all adults in your household have to do shifts: that was what kept relatives of mine who lived nearby from joining.
posted by mishaps at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2011

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