By Ashley Alt
Food is intimate. It’s what you share with your family and friends. It’s about the personal, interactive experience that amazing tasting dinners bring out so naturally, and everyone deserves that feeling just as much as they deserve great food.
Gregory Berlowitz, Founder of Chicago Market, is turning this belief into a business. He is setting out to make a difference in the organic food movement, and he isn’t stopping until that dream comes alive. Berlowitz’s vision for starting a food co-op is pure. He wants anyone to be able to walk into his store regardless of their income, regardless of their feelings about organic food, and say, “Hey, this is really healthy food at a fair price and I want to give it to you.”
As the population is growing more ecologically knowledgeable, we want answers as to why organic food costs are so high and what benefits come from consuming all natural food. Greg, along with 850 other “owners” of the Chicago Market food co-op, are getting to the bottom of these questionable actions put forth by food administrations, and are unraveling the raw truths.
What is a food cooperative?
A food cooperative, or food co-op, is a grocery store offering natural foods designed to supply goods to its owners and members. The decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food are chosen by and ultimately operate for the benefit of its members. Owners are essentially building the store for the people, so what they people want, the people (usually) get.
What is Chicago Market?
Chicago Market will be a beautiful, magical community-owned grocery store featuring sustainably farmed, organic produce, meat and dairy products, and other staples that are on the shelves of common grocery stores.
To be a part of Chicago Market, you have the option of becoming an owner, which has two benefits:
- You have a say in the governance and operation of the store as it is a democratic organization.
- Your food will be discounted, eventually making your initial investment back.
“We are not a startup,” Greg stated. “We have been person by person taking these $250 investments for three years, and now we have 850 people who are now part of our co-op, which is fantastic.”
While Greg is the sole founder of Chicago Market, he hasn’t put in any more money than the rest of the organization, which is pretty amazing. The company is made up of committees for grocery logistics, resource procurement, talking to farmers and producers, and creating the purchasing values and guidelines.
“The truth is this is really hard work,” he says. “And if someone else built a co-op, I would just go to their co-op because there are other things that I want to do with my life. But I’m building a grocery store which wasn’t on my list of goals. It just happened.”
Greg wants his company to be about farmers’ natural food sources, where being part of a better economic system means no middle men or giant food corporations telling us what to eat and what labels may or may not be true.
The benefits of a food co-op
The co-op will be a center of education, ingredient sourcing, labeling, and fair pricing, letting customers know how the food was produced, which farmer grew the food, and why it costs what it costs.
Another cool thing about the co-op is that the money made goes to programs created to make food more affordable for people who can’t normally afford organic food.
“The heart is looking at our world differently,” Greg states. “We can take control of how we buy our food, how we interact with our farmers, and where we put our money. We all deserve good food. We shouldn’t have to eat crap food because we can’t afford it.”
The passionate entrepreneur made it clear that the organization is not starting this grocery store to make money. While making money is obviously essential for the co-op to survive, the goal is to build a better place for a community of people that share the same ideas he and his team have.
”It’s frustrating to feel like we’re powerless in the shadow of all these corporations,” he said. “Marianos doesn’t sell organic food because they want to make the world better. They sell organic food because they make more money on it.”
Currently in its third year of carefully being developed into the new “it” market, Greg and the rest of the organization are right on track with their five-year production plan. Once the owners’ current rank of 850 doubles, the highly anticipated store will be brought to life on the north side of the city.
Interested in becoming an owner or learning more about the business? Check the website for information and updates at http://www.chicagomarket.coop/.