learning to love the co-op

I shamefully admit I am really late to joining my local co-op. It's not that I never shopped there--and I was briefly a member of a struggling smaller co-op before it closed--it's just that I never felt like I went there enough to benefit from joining.

But, times change, and since I'm trying to support smaller and local business when I can,  joining Willy Street was one of the small steps I took in in this goal.  At the heart, I am a non-shopper, and I hate going to multiple stores to get everything I need.  Now that doesn't mean I hit the super-walmart, but it does mean I tend go to a larger, semi-local/semi-worker owned grocery, that has sundries such as toilet paper and bandaids and vinegar.  And yes, the co-op has many of these things, but I honestly can't afford to do all my shopping there.

Over the summer, I learned to love the side trips, and found the convenience of having local items like cheese and potatoes available on non-market days.   I also love their transparency in labeling, their bulk bins, and that they give a discount if you ride your bike.  I was happy this week to get their annual report, which noted that members contributed more than $180,000 to local charities this year (via a register donation program).  The idea of getting a statement of finances is enlightening in itself, and reinforces that I am a part-owner, not just a shopper. 

Its not all roses, I've had some customer service snafus (but that happens everywhere), and I admit to feeling at times a bit of the elitism/smugness that can be a criticism of such shops (Whole Foods, anyone?).  But at the end of the day, I'd rather get an enthusiastic lecture on kombucha than have a grey-faced stranger turn to me in the aisle and say "Don't you wish you never had to eat at ALL?" (This actually happened to me!  I was too stunned to reply...)

This past week or so I have been reading Trout Caviar's excellent book (of the same name), much of which is about wild foods of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  It fits in this discussion because he talks a bit about foraging in your own food-shed, helpfully including your own backyard AND your local businesses and markets.  While I might not currently be much of a wild foods forager, I could relate to the idea of how your habits change along with your growth as a cook, gardener, or more thoughtful consumer.  It's about having your eyes opened to what's available, whether it's an apple tree growing at the edge of a golf course, a cheese shop off the highway on your way to a camp-out, or a co-op a short detour from your usual bike route home. 

Related Articles


  1. Oh, gosh, I have to giggle a bit because... do you remember how I asked about Willy St Coop at the brunch? I joined the following week. Since I'm NW of the city, Willy West is the perfect location for me. Shopping there makes me feel good. Another bonus? My now-adult daughter said, "I want to work here."


    1. Well, I'm glad I'm not the only late-adopter! I can totally see the appeal of a young-adult working there, the hip factor is high ;)


I'd love to hear from you. I have moderation on for older posts, but as long as you're not spam I'll publish it shortly, thanks!

Powered by Blogger.