The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Neighbors Work to Form Co-op as Grocery Chains Jockey For Market Share

By Benjamin Woodard | December 5, 2013 9:24am
 The Rogers Park Food Co-op hopes to sign up 300 members by August 2014, organizers said.
Rogers Park Food Co-op
View Full Caption

ROGERS PARK — As Dominick's prepares to close as many as 10 grocery stores throughout the city, including three on the Far North Side, a group of neighbors want to build their own replacement.

Mary Meyer and Jocelyn Gerard, a mother-daughter duo, began organizing a year ago to form the Rogers Park Food Co-op.

And on Wednesday, they announced plans to sign up 300 members by August.

"It'll bring our community together," said Meyer, 69, to the more than 50 residents who showed up to a public meeting about the co-op.

Meyer — and daughter Gerard, 46 — said their founding group, made of of community leaders, had yet to pick a location to open the co-op, but would within the next year or two, depending on community interest.

Rumors have swirled in recent weeks about what could happen to the big stores occupied by Dominick's, one of the neighborhood's most-established grocers, until the end of the month.

"I think you have a unique opportunity," said Carl Waters, 70, of Edgewater. "We're losing three grocery stores in the area."

Waters said he worried about where he'd shop for groceries if another grocery store doesn't replace Dominick's at 6009 North Broadway, near his home on Thorndale Avenue. He urged the co-op organizers to open in a place that serves both Edgewater and Rogers Park.

Anthony Boatman, who works with neighborhood group A Just Harvest to teach urban gardening to area youths, joined the founding committee for the co-op.

"We will offer food education programs and serve as a gathering place for the community," he said.

Tom Rosenfeld, owner of the Heartland Cafe and Earth First Farms in Michigan, said a co-op would be the "next best thing to a farm[ers] market" and would help bring fresh, organic food to an underserved neighborhood.

"It's a challenge to get good available food in every neighborhood," said Rosenfeld, who lives north of Howard Street in Rogers Park.

Organizers had been looking for help from successful food co-ops in the city — and they found that in Logan Square's The Dill Pickle.

"We're building co-ops because we care about our community, because we don't want to wait for a corporate grocery store to come in and dictate what kind of food is available to us..." said Sharon Hoyer, The Dill Pickle's general manager.

Hoyer said when the co-op opened four years ago, after five years of planning, it did so entirely with member loans and contributions.

She encouraged Rogers Park's co-op to do the same.

"We are beholden to no one except our owners and our community," she said.

But Linda Szarkowski, owner of raw food delivery service Green Spirit, worried that the co-op could harm the neighborhood's independent grocers, like the Morse Market and Newleaf Natural Grocery.

Nonetheless, she said she would likely become a member if it opened.

Resident Robert Kokott, 50, said the co-op should be accessible to the whole neighborhood and preferred a $10-20 membership, rather than a $250 one-time member fee, like the one assessed at The Dill Pickle.

"I love Rogers Park because I feel like it's all of God's children," he said. "If there's a co-op, I want it to reflect the neighborhood — Otherwise, it becomes too gentrified."