Prospect Lefferts Gardens’ answer to the Park Slope Food Co-Op is up and running.
The Lefferts Community Food Co-operative started up late last year at 324 Empire Blvd. and is currently open to members two days a week. The store is the culmination of five years of planning by locals, many of whom had memberships at the famous granola grocer across Prospect Park, and who wanted a similarly affordable option closer to home.
“People like to shop locally,” said Karen Oh, an organizer and former Slope cooperator. “Not in a trendy way. They just like to put money and resources into their own neighborhood.”
The store has 200 members so far and is looking to expand, she said.
The core group of organizers moved to open the shop without more buy-in under the belief that if they built it, the members would come.
“The thinking was, ‘People move, they may not want to invest and wait. We have to open the store.’ ” Oh said. “People don’t have the income and patience to join an idea.”
The founders appear to have been right, as about half of the current members joined after the store got up and running, she said.
Owners of neighborhood supermarkets need not worry about the upstart stealing their business, according to Oh.
“We have a lot of organic products. It’s not going to be for everyone. We don’t offer everything,” she said.
The co-op is currently open to members on Thursdays from 4 pm–8:30 pm and on Sundays from 11 am–6 pm. To join, members pay a $25 fee and a refundable $25–$100 investment sum, and pledge to work a 2-hours-and-45-minutes shift every month. The model is based on the member-worker approach of the Park Slope co-op, and the two operations are cooperating to the point that members of the Slope store can count shifts at the Lefferts store towards their work requirements.
The head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hailed the Lefferts store.
“The Brooklyn Chamber is happy when any new business opens in the borough, particularly one that will increase residents’ access to fresh and healthy produce,” Chamber head Carlo Scissura wrote in an e-mail.
The opening comes as Windsor Terrace’s nascent food cooperative, also modeled after the Slope store, is holding its first meetings and working to build out a storefront on Caton Avenue, just over the Kensington border. That shop is set to open on March 21.