The Park Slope Food Co-Op was founded in 1973 as a way to keep food prices down by eliminating the largest expense of a grocery store: workers’ salaries. In order to achieve this goal members of the cooperative must chip in three hours of labor each month.
And the current membership of 16,000 does just that. By bagging, acting as cashiers, stocking shelves and other jobs, members not only save on their food bills, but they gain a community, as Joe Holtz, general manager and one of the founders of the co-op, explains:
“By asking people to participate with the most precious thing they have in their life, which is some of their time, by asking them to do that, and then, those people coming and trusting each other to work together, it builds community,” said Holtz, who was also the co-op’s first paid employee in 1975.
Today the co-op has 70 paid employees, and has even expanded into the building next door. Some longtime members discussed the growth of the cooperative:
“When we first started, I was always a cashier,” said member Gertz Kuntzman. “You had to do everything on adding machines. Literally, on adding machines, you take the tape out and then pay at another location. Now, we have computers, we’ve got scanners, we’ve got scales that weigh like a real supermarket.”
“I started out unloading the trucks when they came with the deliveries,” said member Mousa Abdur-Rahman. “I used to deal with the receiving. I do checkout presently.”
While the Park Slope Food Co-Op cannot take any new members, they can, and have been helping other communities to start and grow their own co-ops. Members of the Park Slope Co-Op can earn work credits for their time spent helping other co-ops, and the Park Slope Co-Op has also been lending money to help other co-ops get off the ground.
Celebrations of the milestone are planned for this weekend.