by Mia Hanneken
Food co-ops have been around for decades, but there are still tons of misunderstandings about what they are and how they operate. As we wrap up National Co-op Month, let’s break down some of these common misconceptions and reveal the truth behind our truly awesome cooperative grocery store.
Misconception #1: Ownership is required to shop
Absolutely not! This is probably the biggest myth co-ops face on a daily basis. We are not closed to non-owners. We welcome everyone to stock up on local foods, attend our cooking classes, and enjoy the highest quality ingredients in town. Unlike traditional membership-based businesses (think: Costco & Sam’s Club), the Co-op is open to everyone. Sure, we’ll ask if you’d like to be an owner, but there’s no pressure to invest. We love our non-owner shoppers, too!
Misconception #2: All owners must pay an annual fee.
Nope! Common Ground actually charges a one time fee of $60 to be a lifetime owner. We give the option to spread that $60 over the course of one year in $5 payments, but once that $60 is paid, you owe nothing more. You’re an owner for life.
Another feature that distinguishes us from other membership-based businesses is that all owners have the option to sell back their share. That’s right. We will actually refund your equity payment in full, no questions asked.
Misconception #3: Everyone must volunteer in the store to be an owner
This used to be true, but not anymore. We operate very similarly to a standard grocery-store in this sense. Volunteer hours are not required. We just encourage you to shop at least once a year to keep your “active owner” status!
Misconception #4: The Co-op is too expensive
We know we’re no Aldi, but there are plenty of low-cost options here at Common Ground. We have an entire program called Co+op Basics that keeps hundreds of items at a lower margin and price for all our customers. If you’re on a tight budget, read our post about Ways To Save at Common Ground for tips and tricks to stretch your food budget.
Misconception #5: Co-op owners are an exclusive group
Common Ground has more than 13,000 owners, so to say it’s exclusive would be a HUGE misconception! The Co-op tries to be anything but exclusive. Anyone in the community (or outside the CU community) is welcomed to invest and shop at the Co-op. We want Common Ground to be as diverse and vibrant as the rest of the CU community.
Food co-ops are definitely different from your standard grocery store, but they're not an overly expensive, exclusive club. They're open to everyone, owner or not. And the only exclusivity we have is providing exclusively delicious food to our shoppers!