Sunday, December 30, 2018

where to now, st. peter?

It was inevitable. I'm just surprised it took this long.

On Wednesday evening, December 19, members of the Elkins Park community gathered with members of the board of the Creekside Co-op and voted to close the struggling business at the end of the day on Saturday, December 22 — three days before Christmas and six years after it first opened its doors. Everyone in attendance was sad. After all, this was the death knell for a community experiment that many looked upon with great hope. However, as I had mentioned in a previous blog post (from three years ago), it was destined to fail from Day One.

Please! Don't misunderstand me! Despite my negative attitude towards the co-op, I really wanted it to succeed. I did. But, it couldn't. It was run by a group of folks whose heart was in the right place. Until, of course, that heart shifted to be come a chip on its shoulder.

The co-op floundered because it couldn't quite decide what it wanted to be. Did it want to be a gourmet market? A community gathering spot? A convenience store? It wasn't sure. I do know what it wasn't. It wasn't a co-op. Sure, you could become a member, but, unlike a true co-op, no one was required to put in a certain amount of work time. Membership fees entitled members to the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are supporting a business that is poorly run. Oh, and once a month, you could choose a day to receive 5% off of your shopping order. Aside from those meager "benefits," the co-op offered nothing of substance to members. The place was chock full of salaried employees who didn't necessarily live in the community, something that sort of defeated the purpose of the co-op's mission. Plus, and perhaps even more astounding, at the conclusion of the meeting that decided the co-op's demise, a collection was established to help meet the final week's payroll for the co-op's forty-five employees. Forty-five! That place should have run comfortably and effortlessly with less than half of that staff. I feel bad that folks were losing their jobs in the thick of the holiday season, but, if the co-op management had been more realistic, their final decision would have affected far fewer people.

But that was the problem with the co-op. The whole deal wasn't fully thought out. Before they sold their first jar of sun-dried tomatoes or smashed their first avocado, the co-op board purchased the building, instead of renting. Once the doors finally opened (after a lengthy, delay-filled three years), the co-op chose to stock some of the same products one could pick up for less money at one of the three supermarkets within close competitive distance. They opened for the business day well after the foot traffic had passed their locked front doors on their way to the train station, thereby losing potential "grab and go" breakfast business, as well as missing the boat on commuters picking up something to take to work for lunch.

In the six years of the co-op's existence, I never received a flyer, a coupon, a sample, or any sort of enticement letting me know that they were open for business. Twice, I remember stepping off the train after my evening commute and spotting a young lady in a co-op apron offering a tray of tiny tidbits to my fellow riders. After two consecutive days, she was never seen again. On the handful of times I reluctantly breached the co-op's doors to pick up a small container of milk to tide me over until I could make it to an actual supermarket, I was never asked if I was interested in becoming member and never told how beneficial a membership would be.

I never found the co-op welcoming. I never found the employees friendly. I always felt like I was an outsider at a party where I was not on the guest list. Well, now that the party's over, visitors to the co-op's Facebook page are already speculating on what's going to move into the vacant space. While they are making many wild and totally unrealistic suggestions, a few have proposed that another local co-op — a successful one —  absorb our co-op.

And that, my friends, is why the co-op closed.


  1. My sentiments exactly. Thank you for stating it in such clear terms.

  2. You nailed it.
    I shopped there at least 3 times a week. But whenever I had a suggestion or a problem that needed fixing, nothing ever happened. No one ever took responsibility (e.g. - "I can't help you, I'm the produce manager.") 3 times in the final two weeks, no Acme whitefish on the shelf. But, upon asking at the deli, there was plenty "in the back." Hard to sell if it's not on the shelf. Too many non-priced or mis-priced items. Again, I tried to buy as much as possible there and sorely wanted the co-op to succeed. But, I too, saw the inevitable.

  3. The Co-op was a mishmash of non-fitting parts from day one. Add to that a bloated payroll, indifferent employees, and high prices, and you have the perfect storm for failure.

  4. I worked there the first three years of its existence and in the time saw three different GMs, and witnessed the dismissal of the co-ops most passionate and dedicated employees. Like you, I am surprised it lasted as long as it did. Had members been required to volunteer, not only would they have been more invested, but the place could have been run more affordably.