Who needs Walgreens? After pharmacy replaces grocery, nabe plans its own co-op

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Call it co-op-eration.

A group of Kensington and Windsor Terrace foodies are trying to open a Park Slope-style food co-op in their neighborhood after the loss of a local supermarket — and they’re even getting guidance from the leaders of the legendary Park Slope Food Co-op themselves.

“They were extraordinarily helpful in telling us what to avoid and how to proceed,” said Jack O’Connell, who has spearheaded the efforts with about 12 other Windsor Terriers and Kensingtonians. “They are committed to working with us if and when we get the co-op rolling, and we will rely on their much-appreciated skill and knowledge.”

The upstart group has been meeting since July, said O’Connell, and the idea for a food co-op arose after a popular Windsor Terrace Key Food shut down and the pharmacy chain Walgreens announced it would move into the grocery store’s Prospect Avenue space despite outcry from residents who say they value fresh produce over prescriptions.

Organizers hope their co-op plan will appeal to residents concerned about a lack of foodstuffs in the neighborhood, but they admit the challenge will be attracting the broad support required to start a community-run grocery store.

“We need 300–400 members to commit time and resources to get a critical mass of people to do this,” said O’Connell, who says he has received about 100 letters of support from community members so far. “You need people who say, ‘I’m in and I’m working a certain amount of hours each month.’ ”

The group is hosting a meeting on Oct. 23 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Windsor Terrace, and planners expect a large turnout.

Still, the Park Slope Food Co-op’s leadership — which gives advice and support to many fledgling co-ops around the country due to its unofficial status as the godfather of grocery collectives — cautions that it is an arduous journey to start a new co-op.

“It’s very difficult to do,” said Ann Herpel, the general coordinator of the members-only store, who pointed out that the Greene Hill Food Co-op in Clinton Hill took more than two years of organizing to come to fruition. “You have to find out if the community even wants this and you have to have a lot of ways to keep people interested and wanting to put energy and time into it.”

Nearby Ditmas Park has its own co-op — the Flatbush Food Co-op — which unlike the Park Slope Food Co-op, allows non-members to shop, but at slightly higher prices.

O’Connell said that were in the early stage of organizing support for a co-op and were not wedded to any specific model of what it would look like.

“This is a big, enormous task,” said O’Connell. “Co-ops are highly democratic and you can never predict what a couple hundred people will say months from now.”

Windsor Terrace and Kensington food co-op meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall [1511 10th Ave. between 16th Street and Prospect Park Southwest in Windsor Terrace] Oct. 23 at 7 pm.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Mickey Shea from Greenpoint says:
This piece is satirical, right?
Oct. 19, 2012, 11:58 am
Steve LeVine from Windsor Terrace says:
Much kudos need to go out to Jack and crew for working to get this off the ground. They've been working hard and with determination. I only have issue with the headline of this article in so far as it might give the impression that the co-op will be the solution no matter what Walgreens decides to do. However, sees it a little different. We look forward to the possibility of the food co-op down the road as another alternative choice for the rea. However, due to what is needed to accomplish their goal, it cannot solve the immediate and shorter-term fresh food needs of the residents of Windsor Terrace. Also, as with other neighborhoods, a food co-op usually appeals to a small segment of the community. Walgreens needs to provide a full fresh-food market to the neighborhood and anything less is unacceptable.
Oct. 19, 2012, 1:27 pm
Janet from WT says:
I agree Steve. It is wonderful that the Co-op is being considered, but I am not sure alot of the residents will go for it or will be able to devote the time and energy as co-ops require the community to be involved.

I really think we need a regular, old school supermarket.
Oct. 19, 2012, 4:49 pm
Frannyonthego from Former WT resident says:
Grea idea. Key Food always sucked foodwise except for no long lines. Walgreens is an abomination. Too Bad a Trader Joes did not take that space. I think the residents should go for it. otherwise there won't be any large food stores. The fruit market on PPW is also mediocre.
Oct. 19, 2012, 7:03 pm
NVL from Windsor Terrace says:
Totally agree with Franny here. Walgreens got this opportunity because Key Food failed to keep its choices and prices in line with the market (e.g. Fairway and Foodtown). We can't wait around to negotiate with Walgreens or make a fruitless attempt to persuade another supermarket to take a chance on a somewhat limited market base (given the supermarket choices in the larger area). Plus, community interest is growing, which is a great sign!
Oct. 20, 2012, 12:48 am
JAY from PSLOPE says:
umm it all sounds nice but what location will it be at, cause there is NO space for such a thing unless you want to tear down some homes. Good luck with that
Oct. 20, 2012, 1:29 am
Clyde from Frasier says:
Oooo, I have an idea. Granted it's completely ridiculous & unoriginal, but I'll toss it out anyway.

How about driving/walking about 10 blocks to a different store. Granted, it may not be as thrilling for the attention starved, but it's a great way to support neighboring neigborhoods.
Oct. 21, 2012, 1:39 pm
P-nut from W-T says:
Foodtown on McDonald & Albemarle, is a short walk away, or F/G train station is downstairs. Isn't there a greenmarket across from the Pavillion movie house?

There is really no demand profit-wise in W-T for a supermarket. A&P was down the avenue at Reeve Pl, and closed in the late 1980's. Key food was overpriced, and drove away customers.

Freshdirect delivers for $6.

The co-op will be located where?
Oct. 23, 2012, 4:03 am
Verticalpharmacy from Newyork says:
Recently New England Compounding Center, contrary to state rules, sold drugs without requiring physicians to supply individual patient prescriptions.
Oct. 23, 2012, 8:05 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.