Notes From The March 6th Meeting

Meeting notes for Fort Greene/Clinton Hill food co-op, 3/6/2008


In attendance: Approximately 50 future members.


-DK Holland invited introductions around the room. People made comments about why they wanted to join a the co-op. Reasons included a desire for fresh produce, community and proximity. A number of people said they were members of the Park Slope Food Co-op .


-Steering committee introductions: Each committee head explained how they got involved and what their committee did. Steering committee present consisted of DK Holland, Lawrence Eichorn, Erin Kaplan, Peter Smith, Kathryn Zarczynski, Ken Garson, Jim Colgan and Scott Lamb.


-Date for next meeting was set at March 31st at 7:00 pm again at LAPC, 85 So Oxford.


-Question from audience about the current structure: What is it right now?


-Ken moved to governance item on agenda to explain.

Ken explained that governance structure requires us to set bylaws, member functions, decision-making process.

-These kind of questions need to be settled soon.


-Question from audience about information distribution.

-Scott said that a bi-weekly email to group would be good. The outreach committee will provide going forward.


-Question about governance: why don’t we just take the structure from the Park Slope Food Co-op?

-Ken said we may want to take some parts and not others. We have looked into several structures and reviewed a book on failed coops.


-Question about how the Park Slope Food Co-op can help us?

DK explained that Joe Holtz came to the last meeting and talked about how they could help – that included giving us work shift credit.

Peter said that the PSFC gave him financial statements to work from which was very helpful. Although he has to adapt it to something much smaller, obviously.


-Question about what the PSFC did in the beginning.

DK said we’d already heard that from Joe Holtz last week so there was no point going into it again. They started much differently. Ken added they first started out of a truck on Saturdays.


-Question about dual membership. What happens to your PSFC membership if you leave this one?

Ken explained that the relationship isn’t “dual membership” per se. It’s the exchange of workshift credit for labor in the early stages.

We are operating on the premise that ours will also be a working coop. That said, DK explained how you can bank credit for the future. DK also said we need someone to look after the credits. Diane Haines volunteered from the audience.


-Peter asked how many PSFC members in attendance buy all their weekly groceries from there? He explained that to be viable, enough members would need to shop for things like produce on a regular basis.


-Comment from audience member who said we all need to commit – and that we can’t be in the shadow of the PSFC.


-Question from audience about what people get in return.

DK explained the banked credits. That you can work for a number of hours and cash in your hours in future months. She added that there have to be rules about this, which we will establish shortly. Another audience member expressed concern that there would be too many credits banked by the time we got up and running so no one would be there to work. It was reiterated that there need to be rules so this doesn’t hurt us.


-Erin gave the report from the merchandising committee. She said we need to figure out what people want. She has prepared a merchandise survey that will be sent out electronically and in print. She said we also need to find out what people who are currently outside the group want and we need to go to key places in the neighborhood to do that, like the housing development and farmer’s market. Also need to find out what opening hours people want and if they’d be willing to work, etc.


-Erin explained that Miriam from the Milano School of Urban Management (at the New School) will conduct a “needs assessment.” This will include extended outreach into specific parts of the neighborhood.


-Erin said we need to have principles with regard to purchasing. For instance, the PSFC has the principle that if they can get conventionally grown tomatoes in New Jersey they won’t opt for the organic tomatoes in California. These principles will dictate purchasing. Members will vote on which principles we employ.


-Erin announced a plan for members of her committee to go to the PSFC to see how things are done.


-An audience member said we could probably find that kind of thing out from the number of PSFC members that are in the audience. He said that it might be more useful to see what structures are in place there instead.


-Erin also said her co-chair, Aimee Silverman, works with Fresh Direct and she knows what it takes to get it done.


-Someone asked whether we should look to organizations other than the PSFC for guidance.

DK explained that we were. We have a book all about failed co-ops so we can know what not to do. Someone else in the audience said it would be good to look at more than just co-ops, e.g. Other sustainable business models.


-DK reminded people that anyone can join any committee. That if they have concerns, that is the best way to address them and be helpful.


-Lawrence gave the report from the Location and Lease Committee.

He said the process was happening fast. He is only leading the committee because he showed up at the first meeting and got involved.

He looked for lease retail rates in the area. Suzanne debrango contacted dk about a location on the corner of South Portland and Fulton. DK asked for free space on S Portland so we could get our footing and he agreed for a limited amount of time. There should be enough room to operate for the beginning. We could grow into other spaces.


-Meredith from marp expressed concern that the location was being decided too quickly. That IF we were looking to have a diverse membership the location will play a big role in that. She said we shouldn’t just decide outright without looking at other options, such as on Myrtle Ave. She said maybe we need to be more centrally located in order to get a diverse membership. She wanted that on the record.


She also expressed concern that we would be displacing the barbershop and the falafel shop if we took over their space. She said she had discomfort with that. Dk said sean owns the falafel store plus this is not a done deal. She said the location lease committee hasn’t had a full meeting yet and that we can have a discussion about it. She said it’s also important to have a prime retail location that you can own.


-Another audience member said it was important to have the discussion about displacement. Dk pointed out that sean would not kick out a good tenant. He of all people would work with them to relocate them in a good way, if it comes to that.


-Peter gave the report from the Finance committee. He said he came up with an estimate that we need about 500 members in order to get going. He appealed for help on the finance committee and he said people didn’t necessarily have to have a finance background.


-An audience members asked about fees. Peter said that had to be decided, but the PSFC has a $100 initial fee.


-Scott gave the report from the Outreach Committee. He said 500 people has signed the petition. He said there’s now an email list and there has been some media outreach. There are discussions about setting up a stand at the green market and conducting a survey in other key places in the neighborhood. He said we need a “street team” in order to do this. He passed around copies of flyers and asked those in attendance to distribute them around the neighborhood.

-DK said we needed to get a professional designer involved in order to develop a brand identity for the coop. Anyone interested can send an email to

-Jono proposed an IT committee. Jim asked if there were any IT people present and Matias and Jonos presented themselves.

-The group broke up into committees.



7 responses to “Notes From The March 6th Meeting

  1. I agree with the comments of Meredith. A South Portland and Fulton location is so close to the Park Slope Food Co-op that, as a PSFC member, I’d just keep going to there. The inevitably wider selection of the PSFC is worth more than a 10-block shorter trip. If the Fort Greene Food Co-op wants a sustainable (and more diverse) membership base, it should be closer to Bed-Stuy than Park Slope.

  2. I also think that the location should be further from PSFC, and to be nearer to Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy. That also puts it closer to Williamsburg and Crown Heights, and in a less expensive rental market.

  3. I am unable to attend the next meeting, but hope to be actively involved in the coop beginning in late spring. I agree with these comments, and am concerned about what is considered the “center” of the neighborhood and what is considered the “periphery”, as reflected in some of the committee’s emails. Siting it near the subways only makes sense if a large number of people intend to use the subway to shop there. But that seems unlikely, since those same people could also get on the subway and go to PSFC. More likely, this coop will be accessed on foot or on buses for short hops. Thus, there is no reason potentially to pay the higher rent that in the long run will be required in the “prime” S Portland area, and to locate in an area that already has at least some food — as opposed to the dearth on Myrtle.

    Also, does anyone know which committee is determining the startup investment? Finance or outreach or governance? I sincerely hope that income is factored into that initial investment, and that, for example, people already receiving public benefits can join with a lesser, or no, investment than rich people do.

  4. I also think something on Myrtle would make more sense. Lots of inexpensive retail there. If it’s so close to downtown and the subway, you can go many places. This is partially about a lack of decent food options moving north and east. Once you get to Boerum and PS, I agree with Josh – you’ve got PSFC and lots of other places to shop.

  5. I also happen to think that we’d do better located further north OR further east, for similar reasons to the above: If it’s so close to the PSFC, the PSFC will involuntarily “compete” for the same members – especially relevant since the new coop will likely have a smaller selection, more limited hours, and perhaps even higher prices, until it builds up steam.

    Regarding the startup investment: The Finance people have been doing the math on that, but it will also be based in part on the ongoing results of the survey produced by the Merchandising committee.

    I agree that it would be great to have an option for a lower investment for people with lower financial means (like the PSFC does); but, initially, we’ll need to gather enough money* just to get into business.

    *Note that nobody is collecting any money yet. The coop is not incorporated and has not asked for any investments of any kind yet.

  6. I prefer the So Port/Fulton St location.

    I don’t think its that close to the PSFC. And I think that its on the path for people of all walks of life. And I think it gives us the best shot at success, being in the middle of a hub.

    I also think those who feel that people with less $$ won’t feel comfortable coming to that location are pre judging. We need to ask people in public housing what THEY feel – not assume. I would like NOTHING more than to have the folks from Walt Whitman houses feel right at home at on Fulton and So Portland (which they did, I’m sure, until pretty recently).

    That said, it all comes down to money: If we can’t get a rent that we can support and a place that allows us to sell what we need to sell there to make it work, its a moot point.

    There’s a magic equation: $$, space, # of members = success. Once we finish surveying, we will have a better idea. Then the finance committee can jump into action and figure out what the $$ needs to be.

  7. In an online forum, it seems strange to assume where any of us live, or who we know or don’t know.
    I have not seen any suggestion that “THEY” (capitalization and word choice not mine) are “uncomfortable” or “not at home” with any particular location, but am simply noting walking distances, AND that the assumption that Fulton/S. Portland is the center of the neighborhood is one that many of us from different “walks of life” would disagree with. If, indeed, it is somehow less expensive there than in the less wealthy parts of the neighborhood, then that factor matters.