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Planned Windsor Terrace Food Co-Op would siphon helping hands from its Prospect Park-side neighbor

Cooperating cooperatives: Park Slope Food Co-Op lends members to Terrace

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The Park Slope Food Co-op knows it could lose business to a fledgling do-good food store in Windsor Terrace, and it does not care.

The famed Union Street co-op has been giving Windsor Terrace organizers advice on how to form their own members-only grocery despite the fact that hundreds of the up-and-coming store’s would-be worker-owners currently belong to the longtime kale haven.

“We feel that we could possibly lose members, but it is a good thing to have co-ops in neighborho­ods,” said Amy Herpel, general coordinator at the Park Slope Food Co-op.

The idea for the Windsor Terrace Food Co-op took root after the beloved Key Foods on Prospect Avenue closed two summers ago, sparking rallies and petitions by locals who lamented the disappearance of the neighborhood’s only grocery store. Slope cooperators encouraged the venture, which has buy-in from 300 to 350 people, according to a Windsor Terrace organizer.

“Our relationship with Park Slope is the centerpiece of what could be problematic or what could be successful,” said Windsor Terrace food activist Jack O’Connell. “At one point in the very beginning I did think of this as competitive, but my thinking has evolved.”

Herpel and other Park Slope members initially advised O’Connell and his team to wrangle up community support and win firm commitments from would-be members and eventually agreed to help with drafts of Windsor Terrace’s by-laws, which would make the new venture a fully-fledged corporation with a board of directors.

Windsor Terrace also hopes to broker a deal with Park Slope that would allow members of the 41-year-old co-op, who have to work one two-hour, 45-minute shift every month, to have their time spent pitching in at the new market counted. Park Slope’s world-famous green grocer has more than 16,000 members, and at least a few of them could defect to a more intimate store, O’Connell said.

“You have people that feel the tasks they do on a monthly basis [at Park Slope] are meaningless, or not the greatest experiences in the world,” O’Connell said. “It is so crowded that they do not look at it as being a wonderful co-op experience.”

But the hunt for a two-story space has not been easy. The team was pursuing a building on Greenwood Avenue near Prospect Avenue — the former home of Blondie’s Deli — but rent was astronomical, O’Connell said. Windsor Terrace is not exactly flush with commercial space, either, he said.

“The neighborhood is changing, and the dollar signs going up,” O’Connell said.

The Windsor Terrace Food Co-op would charge between $125 and $200 to join, plus a $25 membership fee, much like its Park Slope counterpart, but the next six months will probably decide whether the project will even make it to that point. The grocery needs buy-in from about 400 comrades to open, according to O’Connell.

“It has to be a moment of do or die at some point,” he said. “If we do not get X number of members, we will have to say this just did not work.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
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