Visit to Ithaca's GreenStar Oasis Cooperative Market

I recently experienced shopping and eating in a brick-and-mortar food co-op, bringing to life the concept in exciting ways.

In the heart of downtown Ithaca, NY, easily accessed on foot by weary travelers like myself, is the GreenStar Oasis Cooperative Market, a cozy natural foods store owned and operated by the GreenStar Cooperative Market (or “The Big Store”), located a few blocks west of downtown. The GreenStar Oasis offers a range of prepared foods, a fantastic salad bar, and a whole lot of other great stuff: coffee, tea, vitamins, and an impressive range of groceries, from crackers to kombucha, including tofu, cheese, milk, meat, and produce from local farmers.

As a creature of habit, I’ve developed a deep love (obsession?) for my regular chain grocery store. Yet I felt an immediate sense of home and comfort in the GreenStar Oasis Co-op Market. It had the intimacy of the health food stores my mother used to take us to, with the variety of a big grocer.

oasis-store-front.jpgThere were plenty of people shopping, eating, or just hanging out drinking coffee, dogs in tow, at the picnic tables lining the sidewalk outside the store. By the number of hugs being given out, everyone seemed to know one another pretty well, or at least everyone knew one another by name. Folks at the co-op gave me the impression of the store as a locus of community. There was a diverse group of people in the co-op the Saturday I visited, but the store operates on a few basic shared values. All patrons pitch in to reduce waste through the store’s extensive recycling and composting services, for example.

These shared values undoubtedly originate from another exciting aspect of this co-op community: the way they put democracy into action. On one end of an aisle of refrigerated items, the market boasts a large wall announcing the results of recent votes for board members and on proposed initiatives, such as whether or not to continue carrying meat (the yeses won that one). This board also includes available volunteer positions and the discounts offered per number of hours worked. On the other end of the refrigerated wall was a bulletin board dedicated to customer and member suggestions. Covered in thoughtful suggestions and questions, this public forum in some cases included handwritten responses from co-op members. While other grocery stores may have a suggestion box, the opportunities for customer and member feedback demonstrates that customer service and customer preferences are clearly central components of the GreenStar Oasis Cooperative Market.

Did I really make it this far without mentioning how delicious lunch was? I had an avocado melt with sweet potato hash that was out of this world. The coffee was pretty darn awesome, too. I managed to find myself at the GreenStar Oasis several times during my two day trip: for evening snacks, morning coffee, and admittedly just to buy a newspaper, hang out, and browse the well-stocked aisles. I’ve been eagerly following the Bethlehem Food Co-op’s progress; spending time in a brick-and-mortar cooperative market only made me feel more excited about the co-op coming soon in my hometown.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment