Once of the first things I did when I landed here in Charlottetown 19 years ago was to join Central Farmer’s Coop, which operated the cooperative grocery store on Queen Street. It was as much a political act as a practical one: I’d never had the opportunity to join a coop before, and I seized the opportunity when it presented itself. I was member number 8254.
I had an up and down relationship with the coop after that: I went to every Annual General meeting and was dismayed by fellow members referring to the coop in the third person (“when are you guys going to get better peas?” instead of “how can we get better peas?”). Dismayed enough that, after a rousing speech by Vance Bridges I stood up and commited to shopping only at the Coop for the next year (an announcement I made without consulting Catherine, primary buyer-of-groceries in our family; that didn’t go over well).
After the consolidation in the coop movement in Atlantic Canada, a perhaps-necesary merger that saw local control lessen and Coop Atlantic control increase, I became disilluisioned, especially after I was invited to join the local coop council for the Queen Street store only to find, at the first meeting, that it was a council with no power or practical influence.
My inclinaction to shop at the Coop only lessened after the closure of the downtown store and the conversion of the Upper Queen St. to a “Coop Basics” format, which turned it into little more than a cheap food warehouse.
But if my wallet hasn’t been with the Coop, my heart’s been there, on the outskirts, waiting to return to the fold. I’ve been buying gasoline almost exclusively at the Coop Gas Bar on Walker Drive for the last year. And of course we’ve always taken Coop Taxi and bought our home heating oil from Coop Energy.
And so finally, inevitably, it was time for me to return to the grocery fold.
Thankfully, in recent years both the Queen Street and Walker Drive grocery stores have undergone substantial renovations, and while they might not be drenched in imported Belgian arugula oil like the Sobeys and Superstore mega-outlets, they’ve both got a good selection of products, and are pleasantly compact to shop in (it’s only 30 seconds from cabbage aisle to milk aisle and not wading through yards and yards of coffee makers and childrens clothing to get there!).
And so last Saturday after getting gasoline Oliver and I went inside to the Walker Drive Coop, did our grocery shopping, and then signed up to become members again.
Rachel Morrison was our cashier, and she was friendly, welcoming and helpful; a credit to the store. It was so much more pleasant experience, on every level, to join and shop there than it has ever been to shop at the large box stores that I doubt I’ll ever do anything but.