I wrote this in late September, but sadly never posted. Better late than never.
We have friends who used to live in Minneapolis and they had a bumper sticker on their Subaru stating "I (heart sign) My Co-op!". At the time, I was sort of envious of the sentiment. We had a co-op in town which Rob and I had joined separately and together. We kept our membership when we moved out of state and came back to a mess of records so we joined yet again. The humble little co-op was housed in the basement of a church and many long-time residents of our twin cities didn't even know it existed. When we first started shopping at this co-op, it was kind of dark and hard to find things. The staff could be a little heavy on the angst and a little short on customer service. It always felt to me that there was some unspoken club, far beyond co-op membership, which you either belonged to or you should leave. This little co-op wannabe (as we might have called it from time to time), improved over the years or maybe we just grew to find some things endearing. I remember some people complaining when they actually bought a price scanner because they were "selling out to the man". Someone started (or I became aware of it) a co-op daycare day. One day a week, parents could shop downstairs while other parents watched their kid(s) upstairs. This was before they really had carts and the grocery store area was so incredibly small, it was tough to maneuver with children in tow. I started frequenting and sometimes babysitting on these days. I came to appreciate a place where like-minded parents could come for one day out of the week and socialize, but I still did very little of my weekly shopping at the co-op. I would try to find things to buy and end up shopping at Strawberry Fields after our co-op day. Looking back, the spark of love for the co-op started to take seed during those days.
Fast forward (and I do mean fast!) to today. This uninviting co-op of fifteen or twenty years ago, which I forced myself to shop at, has grown into a co-op other co-ops want to be when they grow up. It is really nothing short of amazing, truly awe inspiring. Some days when I shop at Common Ground Co-op, I wonder if it is all a dream and at the stroke of midnight it will all turn back into what it originated from, a la Cinderella. Yet, it is real. Not only is it real, but it is still growing. Expansion is on its way, after a very short time out of the basement. There are definitely key people who made this happen, but really it was so many people...members loaned money, volunteers made countless calls, and so many other jobs I can't even begin to list them. It actually makes tears come to my eyes to think about it all. I am so appreciative and I am now able to say "I HEART MY CO-OP!". I have come to think of it is as mine, as we all should. It is not a store. It is a part of the community. A growing part of the community and we all benefit from its existence. There are times I dream of living other places. I have a bit of city girl in me, which longs for Chicago or NYC or my beloved DC. I love mountains and oceans, the prairie often does not cut it for me. This week of 94 degrees followed by highs in the 50s makes me curse Illinois and its notoriously awful changing weather. I could live forever on an island in the Caribbean, even if it meant living in a tent. So many lovely places to live. Yet, I know this sounds hokey, I would miss my co-op. Wow!
Folk and Roots Festival. The co-op had wonderful kid-friendly entertainment during the Saturday morning post-Market at the Square rush.
Community Center for the Arts.
Common Ground Co-op fun.