1st Member-Owned Grocery Co-Op Opens in Boston

Dorchester Food Co-op fills a void, as new industry report underscores value of such endeavors
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Dorchester Food Co-Op
The Dorchester Food Co-op in Boston has nearly 1,700 member-owners so far.

Residents of the Dorchester neighborhood in Boston can now join a grocery co-op specializing in healthy foods. The Dorchester Food Co-op at 195 Bowdoin Street opened on Oct. 14 and is the only community- and employee-owned business of its kind in that market.

The 6,000-square-foot store has garnered early interest from locals who want to be a part of the cooperative that improves food equity and access and promotes sustainability. Already, nearly 1,700 people have paid a $100 fee to join the venture.

[Read more: "National Co+op Grocers Gets 3 New Members"]

In addition to groceries and fresh produce from local suppliers, the Dorchester Food Co-op features an in-store café. Among other offerings, the café serves juices and coffees made with beans from a nearby organic and fairtrade supplier and sells pastries and other ready-to-eat foods. Shoppers can also pick up fare like rotisserie chicken, salads and sandwiches at a designated grab-and-go area.

As part of its mission to reduce waste, the store offers food and cleaning supplies that can be bought in bulk. Shoppers can pick up desired quantities of grains, beans, spices and other items to bring home in a reusable container.

“At Dorchester Food Co-op, we are not tied to a strict distribution chain. Our goal is to curate a diverse range of products that align with our values. We will default to local, organic, and sustainable product options, whenever possible,” the proprietors explained in a recent news post. “Ethical business practices are always a key priority. In our effort to serve the community, we hope all of our neighbors feel represented and heard as you shop at your Dorchester Food Co-op.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu welcomed the store to the community. “As the only food co-op in Boston, you’re helping residents and families in Dorchester and across the city access fresh, nutritious, and culturally relevant foods and groceries. It is such a joy to see one of our S.P.A.C.E. grant recipients achieve their dreams of opening up their storefront to better help serve our Boston communities,” she declared in a recent social media post.

Dorchester Food Co-op is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As Boston gets its first food co-op owned by workers and residents, other grocery cooperatives have been lauded for their efforts. National Cooperative Bank (NCB), which provides banking solutions to support co-ops and their members, published its annual ranking of the top revenue-earning cooperative businesses in the United States. According to NCB, co-ops across industries posted revenue totaling $319 billion last year, a 25% increase from the prior year.

Associated Wholesale Grocers was fifth on NCB’s list this year, with a reported revenue of $12.3 billion. Wakefern Food Corp./Shoprite not far behind, ranking sixth with a reported revenue of $12.2 billion. Associated Food Stores was No. 24, Affiliated Foods, Inc. was No. 41, URM Stores was No. 48, Frontier Cooperative was No. 58, Associated Grocers Inc. was No. 86 and Associated Grocers of New England was No. 98.

Food-producing co-ops were also recognized in NCB’s ranking. The Dairy Farmers of America organization was No. 2 and Land O’Lakes, Inc. was No. 3.

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