Ridge market battle goes co-op

Ridge market battle goes co-op
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

In grocery-starved Bay Ridge, shopping is about to become a team effort.

Ridgite Murray Gross is planning to start the neighborhood’s first food co-op, which he hopes will bring good, cheap food to a community that is about to lose a beloved Key Food supermarket on the corner of Third Avenue and 95th Street.

“We need a decent food supply, which is something we don’t have now,” said Gross, who teaches computer science at Brooklyn College. “By pooling our resources, we can develop something that is much stronger than we would be individually.”

Unlike the borough’s most famous grocery collective, the Park Slope Food Co-op, Gross’s culinary kibbutz will not have a brick and mortar store.

Instead, co-op members will draft a shopping list and make a weekly trip to grocery stores across the borough to stock up on the best deals (like the onions that Gross purchases for 59-cents per pound on Avenue J, 41-cents less than onions cost on Third Avenue).

After the shopping run, cooperators who didn’t tag along can pick up the discounted goods in Bay Ridge.

Gross says that the grocery group will need 40 dedicated participants to survive the hand-to-mouth the early days. He currently has about 30 interested co-operators.

“I’d like to see something that is inclusive rather than exclusive,” Gross said. “Both of the food co-ops here in Brooklyn have effectively pushed members away because they’ve made themselves exclusive.”

Gross believes that the Park Slope Food Co-op has disenfranchised shoppers who are unable or unwilling to put in the mandatory two hours and 45 minutes of work every four weeks, while the Flatbush Food Co-op has alienated consumers who aren’t interested in health foods.

Gross’s co-op will allow shoppers who can’t contribute time to contribute cash or other services — a strategy that Gross says will help grow the ranks and bolster the bank account.

He added that the Bay Ridge collective would only purchase foods that its members demand — whether that means wheat grass or Wheat Thins.

Joe Holtz, general manager of the Park Slope Food Co-op, objected to Gross’s suggestion that his grocery is exclusive.

“By making food that’s usually very expensive affordable to everyone, we’re actually not exclusive,” said Holtz, whose co-op requires labor, but charges everyone the same prices.

Gross hopes to start distributing food by the end of July and he says that the Bay Ridge co-op will be truly cooperative — even if that means it will carry items he loathes.

“I personally would prefer not to see some of these crazy health foods like wild grains, but what the community wants is what the community needs,” he said.

The first Bay Ridge Food Co-op will meet on June 25 at, get this, Verrazano Pizza (9102 Fourth Ave., at 91st Street) at 7:30 pm. Call (718) 680-5533 or e-mail [email protected] for info.