By Laura Gottesdiener
Pass the scorzonera!
The long-awaited Greene Hill Food Co-op — which hopes one day to rival Park Slope’s legendary members-only supermarket — has moved another step closer to operating a full-fledged cooperative by opening a buying club.
It’s the first time members will actually start getting food at this food co-op, which has been in the works for the past four years.
Members fill up a virtual shopping cart online, and then Greene Hill places one large order, allowing foodies to get organic products at wholesale prices.
“It’s been successful,” said John Wepking, co-chair of the merchandizing committee. “We’re getting really fresh and affordable food to the community.”
The system is also a great recruiting tool; since the buying club’s launch in early February, membership has expanded to 250, with 80 people currently placing orders.
Buying clubs are often set up as a first step toward a full-fledged, members-only co-op, allowing organizers to raise money for a freestanding location. Greene Hill started renting a storefront on Putnam and Grand avenues last July, and the twice-monthly buying club pick-ups are at that location.
Membership costs $175, plus a $50 security deposit, in case someone leaves her kohlrabi to rot. But for that money, you get in on wholesale prices directly to farmers.
The goal, of course, is a co-op modeled after the famous, 38-year-old Park Slope version, which was called “world’s most annoying grocery store” by a Gawker writer who was not actually a member. Co-op member DK Holland and eco-friendly Web site owner Kathryn Zarczynski spearheaded the creation of the Greene Hill co-op so they could shop — and work their monthly shifts — closer to home.
Building the co-op itself could take six months and $10,000. Or it could take years and 10 times more than that, as members are debating what type of store to build. A luxurious replica of the Park Slope Food Co-op probably isn’t in the works.
“Our mission is not to have a really fancy store, but to serve the neighborhood with fresh food,” said longtime member Anna Muessig.
One key will be to shed the elitist stigma that adheres itself to organic produce (you don’t get purple lacinator kale at your corner C-town) and to private “food clubs” with members whose eco-pride sometimes turns off non-members.
“We need to get the full spectrum of our community involved,” said Muessig.