Call it organic growth!
Leaders of the Park Slope Food Co-op are eying a second location, as the famed Union Street grocery emporium is at bursting point and they want to spread their cooperative shopping gospel and cheap produce elsewhere.
“We believe that co-ops are a good thing and it’s a good thing for people to be in co-ops and this would make it available to thousands of more people,” said co-op coordinator Joe Holtz, who nevertheless has not taken a stance on the potential expansion.
The 43-year-old commune of commerce now boasts 16,500 members, and managers say the building can’t handle many more, according to a report in the co-op’s own Linewaiters’ Gazette, which first broke the news of a prospective second outlet.
But changes at the cooperatively run organization are by definition slower than a reusable bucket of biodynamic molasses — it recently resolved a four-year debate over whether to ban plastic produce bags (they’re staying) — so don’t expect a Starbucks-speed expansion.
The co-op’s members will first vote on creating a committee to investigate the idea — a task that it wouldn’t complete until at least the end of July. Then, it would take a few more months for the co-op to build the committee, which would then conduct a study, and report back.
All up, the process will take a year, Holtz said.
During its investigation, the committee would need to find a new location far enough away from Park Slope that residents there wouldn’t join the original store.
If the new outlet is too close to the co-op’s headquarters, it could split the existing shoppers between the stores and the co-op would end up paying double the rent without gaining new members, he said.
But at least one loyal co-op member said he would never support a second location — regardless of its location — as it would tear apart the very fabric of the co-op community, in which members form close bonds while working two hours and 45 minutes every month slicing cheese, manning the register, and stocking shelves.
“The cohesion of the co-op and its members is both spiritual and logistical,” said Gersh Kuntzman, former Brooklyn Paper editor and the writer of the forthcoming musical “Murder at the Food Co-op.” “Satellite co-ops dilute our brand, which is coherence and cohesion. The co-op has a soul, and the building is the heart.”
If the co-op needs to accommodate more members, Kuntzman suggests it build more stories on its current property.
Holtz also has his reservations — he is concerned a bigger business might not be able to stay financially solvent and both outlets could go out of business, citing a cheese shop he loved that went under when it expanded too quickly.
“Look at the history of the businesses that go out of business because they expand,” he said.
There are already several other independent food co-ops in Brooklyn — including one in Windsor Terrace that Park Slope members helped set up in 2014.