Bid to pull off food co-op coup - Bay Ridge residents respond to Key Food supermarket exit

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Instead of waiting on the sidelines for a new outlet to open in supermarket-starved Bay Ridge, a group of residents has taken the grocery shortage into its own hands, by taking steps to form a food co-op.

The purpose of the effort, said organizer Murray Gross, is to provide the neighborhood with “the highest quality of foods they want at the lowest prices.”

Gross, who appeared before Community Board 10’s June meeting to ask for board support in the endeavor, said he and other area residents had been motivated by the current neighborhood crisis.

“We feel the appropriate response to the closing of Key Food is a food co-op,” Gross told the group gathered in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road.

“Other people have done it before,” Gross went on, referencing both the Park Slope and Flatbush food co-ops. “We think it would be a benefit for the entire community.”

At this point, said Gross, a group of interesting individuals has come together to work on the formation of the co-op. “We would love to open a store,” he went on, “when we have a sufficient number of members, when we have sufficient volume.”

The group will be meeting on Wednesday, June 25 at Verrazano Pizzeria, 9102 Fourth Avenue and all potential members are invited to attend.

In a subsequent interview, Gross said that about 40 people are “already actively involved,” and that he thought that about 100 people would be necessary to create a co-op that would be “self-sustaining.”

But, he stressed, “Twenty active and determined people who behave as a group could get some benefit from getting together.”

No decisions have yet been made as to what items would be available through the co-op, said Gross. That, he emphasized, would be determined by the members.

“If the co-operators want organics, there will be lots of organics,” he explained. “If the co-operators want standard supermarket fare, that’s what will be there. It’s a community effort. It doesn’t work without the community. It doesn’t work if any group is excluded. So we do have to take into account the ethnic, cultural and social diversity of the area.”

At this point, Gross added, “We’re past the idea phase. It’s the details that have to be put together. We know we want to avoid the rigid service requirements of the Park Slope Co-op. The question is, how to reduce the rigidity without losing the effectiveness of the need to cooperate.

“Is it going to happen?” Gross went on. “I think so. Can I promise you? I can’t promise you that the sun is going to come up tomorrow.”

For further information on the food co-op, email baycoop@gmail.com, or phone 718-680-5533.

Updated 3:48 pm, October 19, 2011
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