The Park Slope Food Co-op Model: Spreading Success Through Funding and Knowledge
The Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn, NY has become famous for its grocery store model, which provides members with access to heavily discounted food (usually organic, local, and highly curated) in exchange for a couple of hours of labor per month. There is no option to pay extra to avoid the labor, and there is a strict member-only shopping policy.
According to DNAinfo, this model is highly successful in Park Slope but pretty rare throughout the nation:
Though that way of doing business has proven successful in Park Slope — the co-op boasts about 16,000 members and just celebrated its 40th birthday — it’s very rare, said Park Slope Food Co-op general coordinator Ann Herpel.
In the 1970s, many co-ops followed the Park Slope paradigm, but most of those have died out. Only three of the 500 food co-ops in the United States use the same labor-driven approach, Herpel said. Other co-ops let shoppers pay for memberships with money, instead of work, and they allow non-member shoppers.
This past Fall, the Co-Op announced a program that might change that status, and help bring the concept to other neighborhoods in New York and beyond. The program, called the Fund for New Coops, aims to provide low-cost loans to groups that want to start new stores based on the member labor model. Loans will average $20,000 each, and are to be used for such items as “rent deposit, refrigeration and other major equipment, and physical upgrades to shopping or storage space.”
In addition to loans, the Park Slope Food Co-Op also provides advice and technical assistance for groups who want to follow their lead. According to DNAinfo, they’ve consulted with groups in as far-reaching places as “Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Poland, and Berlin,” and have recently hosted a group from Paris that they’ve been working with for three years to help setup a “supermarché collaborative” in the North of the city. The Paris group took some tours, gathered some knowledge, and even made videos of the Park Slope store in action to show to potential members and crowdfunding campaign supporters:
The Fund for New Coops (Park Slope Food Coop)
Park Slope Food Co-Op Launches Loan Program to Start Similar Groceries (DNAinfo)
Le Supermarché Collaboratif de la Louve (La Louve)
Image above from La Louve supermarché collaboratif crowd funding campaign page