*A food co-op is a grocery store that is owned and operated by people in the community, usually called members or member-owners. Most food co-ops take a socially responsible approach to the food and products that they sell, offering local and/or organic options where possible alongside cost-effective alternatives. Cost-effectiveness is a key attribute of all food co-ops; using a co-operative work principle allows organizations to offer goods at substantially below the prices of all normal grocery stores. There are varying models for food co-ops, but typically they have a focus on community and reduced prices for owner-members. Many co-ops use member labor at varying levels. This allows co-ops to significantly reduce their operating costs (and pass on the savings to members) and at the same time encourages a valuable sense of community.
What is a food co-op?
How does a food co-op differ from a normal grocery store?
*A normal grocery store is typically owned by an individual, a family, or a corporation. A co-op is owned by a group of people who live in a community or neighborhood. Co-op members all have equal stake in the store. All members invest a small amount of money in the co-op when they join, which is refundable if they decide to leave at some point in the future. Because of the unique way in which co-ops are funded and operated, they are generally able to offer goods at substantially lower prices than normal grocery stores. Food co-ops are generally concerned with community involvement and monetary savings for owner-members. Often, food co-operatives focus on organic or sustainable food practices at reasonable prices.
What is the Bay Ridge Food Co-op?
*We are a community organization starting a brand new food co-op to serve the residents of Bay Ridge and its surrounding areas in Brooklyn, New York. Everybody is welcome to join us in our effort to bring this valuable new resource to our neighborhood. Owned and operated by its members, the Bay Ridge Food Co-op seeks to provide quality, wholesome food and goods at the lowest practical cost. A food co-op in the Bay Ridge area will provide you with easy access to locally grown and organic foods, as well as a wider and more interesting range of delicious products than the options currently available in the neighborhood.
What have you achieved so far?
*We have achieved a lot! We have incorporated as a cooperative business, and we have over 2,000 interested neighbors so far. We have spread the word about our organization throughout Bay Ridge and attracted the attention of local politicians and community leaders. In 2012 we began selling food at our bi-weekly food distributions. We have received 2 financial grants and continue to apply for more support. The official membership campaign began September 14 2009 and currently we have almost 200 committed members.
Where will the co-op be located?
*Our plans are for the co-op to be located in Bay Ridge, preferably close to public transportation. The exact location will be determined based on the availability of properties that meet our space requirements.
Do I have to be a Bay Ridge resident to join?
*Absolutely not. We believe that the majority of our members will come from the Bay Ridge area, but we will also be encouraging residents from Dyker Heights, Sunset Park, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Boro Park (among other places) to join. Everybody is welcome.
How do I become a member?
By investing equity and committing to work a certain number of hours per month as we approach store opening. The equity share is $200 per person, can be paid in installments, and will be refundable if a member decides to leave the co-op. The number of hours that will be required is estimated at 4 per month, but the exact amount will be better known as we get closer to opening.
How much does it cost to be a member?
*The member equity payment is $200 per adult member of your household. We offer a variety of payment plans, as follows:
- Payment in Full - $200 Single Payment.
- Payment plan 1 - $50 Initial Payment, $50 each quarter thereafter until $200 is reached.
- Payment plan 2 - $20 Initial Payment, $20 each month thereafter until $200 is reached.
- Payment plan 3 - $10 Initial Payment, $10 each month thereafter until $200 is reached.
- Reduced equity payment for qualified households (contact BRFC membership committee)
- *Online payments will be accepted. However, an additional processing fee must be added. Processing charges will not come out of the equity payment(s).
What is an equity payment?
*The equity payment to the co-op is the cost per share for your ownership rights. The share gives you the right to vote on co-op business, makes you a partner in the business and of course, gives you the right to shop in the Bay Ridge Food Co-op.
Will I be able to get my $200 back if I need it?
*Yes, although there will be no refunds until the co-op is up and running.
I would like to get involved in outreach, membership, marketing, IT etc, who do I contact?
How do I get in touch with somebody from the co-op?
How can you be sure that your prices will be so low?
Based on research, business planning and careful financial modeling we know that the co-op, by not seeking a profit, but rather a markup sufficient to sustain and grow the business, and by benefitting from each member owner putting in some sweat equity, we will be able to allow you to save every week and bring healthy food to your family. We are also learning from existing cooperatives in New York and around the country that are indeed able to provide lower prices.
Are products cheaper at a food co-op?
*Generally, yes, because the Co-op has much lower operating costs than most grocery stores, due to the unique way in which we are funded and operated. It may be the case that some items are available at a lower cost elsewhere, although this is often because the products are of inferior quality than what is offered by the Co-op.
What is the co-op's idea of 'local'?
In a city as large as New York, local is a larger area then in other parts of the country. We will likely consider local to be a 300 or 500 mile radius. The exact definition, however, will be decided by our membership.
Will you just be selling local and/or organic food at the co-op?
We expect to sell conventional items as well as local and organic. We will stress healthful foods.
If I can't do my entire weekly shopping there, why should I join?
*We would hope that the majority of your shopping needs would be covered by the food co-op when we open. We also hope that we will have the ability to grow to a full size, fully stocked supermarket over time, and that we will then be able to address most, if not all, your buying needs.
Do you sell foods for specific dietary requirements e.g. kosher, halal, gluten-free, etc.?
*We currently sell gluten free products and in the future we will aim to have alternatives to many familiar foods for people on specialty diets, people with food allergies, and people who need to change their diet for medical reasons.
Does the Coop sell meat?
*Yes, we currently sell a variety of poultry and meat products, most of which is produced without antibiotics in a humane environment. In the future we will sell fish as well as variety of vegan alternatives.
Will the food co-op just sell food?
*Yes, especially at first, however we will be attempting to offer as wide a range of goods as is possible in the space we move into. We currently sell items such as soap and locally made candles.
What kind of things does the co-op sell?
*The co-op currently sells a variety of high quality food items, including fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, cheese, yogurt and milk, shelf stable products such as peanut butter, jam and honey. We also sell brooklyn-made ice cream and other desserts, gluten free products and fair trade coffee. Once we open a storefront, we will stock an expanded range of products, based on the preferences of our members.
Our products come from farm cooperatives, fair trade vendors, local NYC producers and vendors that focus on high-quality and, often, organic foods.
Will there be any permanent staff at the food co-op?
*Yes, permanent staff is necessary to keep some sort of continuity in the day-to-day operations of the co-op, but the number of paid employees will be kept to a minimum as most of the labor, stocking, cleaning, phone-answering etc. will be covered by members.
I have a very busy job and cannot make the time to do a regular workshift? Can I still join the food co-op?
*As a principle, all adult household members are required to work. We recognize that in this day and age - especially in New York - everybody has busy lives. However, we can only provide members with products at a lower price than elsewhere because of the lower expenses that member workers allow us to achieve. Once we open a storefront, shifts will be available evenings and weekends and we will also have jobs that you can do at home (such as answering questions on our website!). We currently need workers to fill in at bi-weekly food distributions, cover outreach events and work from home. We will try hard to work with you to find a way for you to contribute your fair share.