Portland shoppers, most of whom were members, arrived en mass at the newly opened Portland Food- Co-op. Lines were slow at the check-out but no one minded so thrilled for the store to be finally open.
Wednesday was the official soft opening of the long-awaited Portland Food Co-op, a 2100-member-strong, cooperatively owned shopping venue that will offer local and organic foods and products. The official opening is December 10, but starting Thursday, Nov. 20 the co-op, still feeling its organic oats, will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The store definitely has that 1970s health-food store vibe with the wafting scent of patchouli and incense pervading the aisles. Staffers, too, are young and energetic, though most with whom I spoke were still in the dark about how it all works. But, hey, it’s a valiant effort and a long-awaited neighborhood store that members and nonmembers alike can feel part of the community when they walk in to shop.
The packaged food on the shelves is fairly standard– not much different from Whole Foods. Pricing at this point, however, is an issue since they are still considering the level at which items should be pegged. They were guided somewhat by national distributors, but I noticed some pricing disparities in a product that I buy, for example, all the time: Gerolsteiner Spring Water. At Whole Foods it’s $1.49; at Trader Joe’s it’ $1.29 and at the Co-op it’s on the shelves at $1.99. But, I’m told, these issues will be corrected.
The meat case has fresh farm meats from Wee Bit Farm, and Tide Mill and Serendipity poultry is available frozen.
The dairy case is still a work in progress but the co-op will have raw milk and cream as well as pasteurized milk. A few weeks ago I suggested a few farm brands to carry and they followed up and will be offering Misty Brook dairy products, which are excellent as well as other raw milk and cream from local farms.
The vegetables are either labeled “organic” or “organic local,” though the actual farm name for the local vegetables is not part of the labeling now but will become so in the future.
For those in need of gluten-free breads and baked goods, the Co-op has it in spades, virtually to the exclusion of traditional baked goods. That will be balanced out, though I wonder if the store will carry freshly baked breads from some of our best bakers.
One item that I found interesting was in the coffee aisle where a coffee not generally available here was displayed. It’s Cross Roads Coffee – a small-batch roaster in Gray, offering mostly Guatemalan beans roasted light, medium and dark. The coffee is priced well at $12.95 for a pound, which is about $2.00 less than other local providers.
The Co-op is certainly a welcome addition located strategically in the Rite-Aide shopping plaza for the convenience of the ascendant Munjoy Hill-East End neighborhoods as well as the rest of the city residents who, by the looks of it, jammed the huge parking lot today to welcome the store to the hood.