Republished with permission from the Eugene Register-Guard.
"Dan's wife" makes the bagels; Mrs. Neusihin makes the
pickles. Granola—"a cereal that really stays crisp"—is
60 cents a pound packaged; if you bring your own container
it's 55 cents and you can buy as much or as little as you
Willamette People's Cooperative, the corner grocery store
which sells these items, is a booming business. Two months
old, the grocery at 22nd and Emerald has over 500 members
(at $5.00 a share) and is grossing $700 to $800 a day. Already
there is talk about starting another food cooperative to handle a
volume which surprises even the organizers.
The food cooperative was started by a group of University of Oregon
students and their friends who wanted to sell groceries at
lower prices and to sell an idea—that a sense of
community can be created through common cause and need.
Transportation problems have blighted that community spirit
somewhat but volunteer sales help (20 to 30 clerks who work
without pay) continues strong behind the counter.
The co-op buys a lot of its stock in Portland and from
farmers, slaughterhouses and wholesalers around the
country. People have given cars (some of which won't run)
to the store for pickup runs by volunteer drivers. But
occasionally you won't find the Tillamook cheddar which
sells at 81 cents a pound or fresh eggs for 66 cents a
You usually can find a good supply of fresh mushrooms at 62
cents a pound; olives at 75 cents a pint; brown rice, soy
flour, wheat flour, and three varieties of beans—all sold
at bulk prices. Whole milk is 88 cents a gallon (used to be
83 cents but inflation hits co-ops, too).
After two months of successful operation, the co-op
membership has voted to shift the emphasis to more natural
and health foods. At a meeting last week members decided to
stop the sale of cigarettes because smoking is "a filthy,
addicting habit;" to stop the sale of "garbage" sweets and
stock healthful candies for the school kids; to limit
stocks of certain packaged foods which aren't particularly
healthful; and to emphasize the sale of fresh fruits and
vegetables over canned goods.
Jack Corbett who works afternoons at the co-op says rumors
that the store is being harassed by food licensing agencies
are untrue. He said the clerks who cut the cheese and meats
for customers have to have food handlers licenses and
Corbett agrees they should. He said he's found the food
inspectors helpful and it's simple to meet health
requirements if you're willing to listen to inspectors.
Willamette People's Cooperative gets crowded most
afternoons and insiders recommend you shop early or late.
Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. You can buy at the store even if
you're not a member but it isn't encouraged.
Shoppers include everyone from youngsters who pay 7 cents to help themselves to one of Mrs. Neusihin's pickles
to old timers who like the atmosphere. Browsers read signs
explaining the benefits of natural grains and
polyunsaturate oils, the average wage of Guatemalan farm
workers and the number of war victims in Vietnam. Buyers
help themselves to flour from wooden barrels and grind
their own coffee. The adventurous can even take home a
piece of horse meat to try out on the family.