Today’s news:

Bushwick business may ask members to be more ‘cooperative’

The Brooklyn Paper

Is this a food co-op, or Costco?

The cost to run the Bushwick Food Co-op, the fledgling member-supported food haven, has tripled during the last few months, and now management is considering asking its 85 members to pony-up $100 each — on top of a $50 membership fee — to help the business stay afloat.

“In order to keep this going, we’re going to need to put more money in the coffers,” said store manager Oliver Ogden.

Ogden says the plan would be to charge the members the fee as an investment in the company, which claims to offer lower prices on food in return for members working at the storefront for free, so it would be able to keep its head above water during a time when expenses — including telephones, electricity, and rent —have gone up dramatically.

“This kind of reinvestment is not unheard of for co-ops,” Ogden said.

Or, at superstores including Costco and BJ’s Wholesale, where members buck up a yearly fee in return for lower prices on items that are usually sold in bulk. But that’s where the comparison ends, because when food co-op take your cash, they promise to give it back.

The Park Slope Food Coop, for instance, charges members a one-time $100 fee that is returned to them — with interest — when they quit.

Ogden says he would use a similar model, which won’t go into affect until members agree.

“We’re holding a meeting to find out what our membership wants to do,” said Ogden. “It’s been difficult because we’ve gone through so many changes relatively quickly.”

The Bushwick Food Co-op opened in 2008 as a buyer’s club with only 10 members, but it quickly grew as word spread about the club’s cheap prices on bulk foods. In 2009, the co-op moved into an office and storage space in Brooklyn Fireproof on Ingraham Street. Last summer, it moved into the Loom building on Flushing Avenue between Porter and Knickerbocker avenues, four years after the co-op held its first meeting, it became a full-service — though small — grocery. Now, non-members can also shop at the store, through they pay higher prices.

Members have differing ideas of how to make sure the co-op is sustainable. Some want to attract as many members as possible, but others are wary of that philosophy.

“Between 100 and 300 members is pretty good for a co-op size,” said Ogden. “Once you get beyond that, the community is gone.”

Costco, by comparison, claims to have 67.4 million card-carrying members worldwide.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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Reader Feedback

Johnny Hammersticks from Brooklyn says:
Just shows you that hipsters are morons.
Jan. 30, 2013, 6:17 am
JT from Windsor Terrace says:
Much good luck to them. This is a worthwhile endeavor and a tough grind
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:11 am
ty from pps says:
Danielle Furfaro... When you sat down at your computer, how did your brain decide that comparing a small neighborhood co-op and Costco was a good idea?

And Johnny -- Are you always a pointless douche or just sometimes?
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:41 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
And Costco doesn't make you work there!

Forward Comrades!
Jan. 30, 2013, 10:13 am
Q from Bay Ridge says:
Lmfao @ Johnny Hammersticks!

Costco is awesome. Food Co-ops are not. I, personally, work two jobs as is. Not about to work a 3rd to save a couple bucks on Maxwell House. Pay the yearly fee, and use the spare time to picket something you freaks find offensive, like Johnny Hammersticks' personality!
Jan. 30, 2013, 11:02 am
diehipster from zero hipster land says:
Why is everything a project with these people? Can't these effing tryhards just buy their food from pathmark and key food like the rest of us? The simplest thing like buying food has to be done at a "co op" while dressed like rock stars and poets. Wow I really hate these hipster interlopers with all my might.

Can't be milk - must be soy almond milk.

Can't be lettuce - must be rooftop rainbow kale.

Can't be beer - must be micro craft ale.

Can't be Twix - must be wrapped in prosciutto.
Jan. 30, 2013, 11:02 am
diehipster from zero hipster land says:
Whaaah! People are different, things change and I don't like it.
Jan. 30, 2013, 12:37 pm
diehipster from crushing Logans says:
Yeah, it's hard to give a rebuttal against the truths I speak of the "vibrant creatives" (lol). So keep using my name, Keegan.
Jan. 30, 2013, 1:16 pm
Homey from Crooklyn says:
Yeah ! Smackdown ! I love it...
Jan. 30, 2013, 1:47 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
@diehipster: No wonder you're so pissed off, eating and drinking crap. Almond milk and leafy greens are much better for you than cow puss and iceberg lettuce, and are also readily available at Pathmark and Key Food. If you are drinking Bud, Miller or Coors, then you are just missing out on real beer. Don't mock it until you try it.

Also, hipsters drink PBR, or whatever they swill they can get for $5 a 12 pack.
Jan. 30, 2013, 3:50 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Milk comes from glands.

You can't milk an almond.
Jan. 30, 2013, 3:51 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
If you want to drink the bodily fluids of a farm animal, then go right ahead.
Jan. 30, 2013, 4:13 pm
Amanda from Bushwick says:
The reason why we pay a membership fee and work is that we can get produce for much cheaper and much better quality than "Pathmark" or "Costco." The cost of our local, seasonal, and organic produce is far less than what the local grocery stores charge for conventional, non local produce.

As an FYI, the Coop voted to not institute an investment fee, so the price for members is a one time $50 fee, which can be paid in installments. We also offer a low income membership to anyone showing financial hardship (SNAP, Unemployment, WIC), which is only $15. Compared to Park Slope and Greene Hill, we have a lower fee, in exchange for a slightly higher work hour requirement.
Jan. 30, 2013, 6:19 pm
Thistle from Bushwick says:
yeah, I'm one of the founding members, and I gotta say, most of the people in this coop are huge nerds, who are not hip in the least, who like high quality food at cheap prices and are passionate about social responsibility and community. I love that---"the simplest thing like buying food has to be done at a 'coop' while dressed like poets and rock stars"! You should see what we are really doing with and for our community and probably not pay much attention to what most of us are really wearing, because this is generally not at all a fashionable crowd. hahaha, hipsters. Oh man. Not at all!! I wish more hipsters would become a part of our coop! We need members!
Jan. 30, 2013, 7:02 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
I am sad to see fellow Bay Ridgeites who are so upset over this, something that affects them not at all, that they feel the need to insult those that are involved in this effort.

Let me say that I am in full support of the efforts in Bushwick. They are one of the leading nascent co-ops in the city, and deserve a look-see, at the very least, if you live in the neighborhood. There is also one in Bay Ridge, and those that live close to there may want to check that one out!

Also, before my fellow Ridgeites begin to insult me, I am a life-long resident of southwest Brooklyn. I grew up in Dyker Heights, and have spent almost the last 20 years in Bay Ridge.
Jan. 30, 2013, 8:13 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
are they spending your $? making you give up your time? fooking your wife or whatever? so what do you guys care - born raised and degreed from brooklyn but hoestly some of you need to dip your oar in the water if you know what i mean

mazel tove
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:08 pm
a person from Brooklyn says:
Don't criticize what you can't understand. Bob Dylan said that.
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:13 pm
Nick from Bushwick says:
I use to buy the produce for the Park Slope Food Coop way back in the early 70s. We survived those early years by partnering with Seniors at the Methodist Church on 6th Avenue and the Catholic Church on 17th Street. Volume is everything when it comes to making ends meet and if you have to have less impressive sounding produce to increase volume (but still organic), go for it. You can always ramp up down the road.
Jan. 30, 2013, 11:46 pm

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