A Mixed Blessing
Having worked at, and/or been members of, Puget Consumers' Co-op in Seattle since the early 70s, we naturally joined Peoples' Co-op shortly after we moved to Portland. Although we never believed the sadly mistaken 'green and crunchy' hype about Portland, we were astonished to find that no co-op, or natural organic food shops at all, existed in our own Belmont neighbourhood. We therefore schlep down to Peoples' in Clinton every other week to stock up. We love the fact that there is at least one place in SE where we can buy fresh, quality organic produce and bulk grains, and the fact that it is one of very few non-commercial grocery shops in Portland (there only appear to be three very small co-ops here). But it pains me to say that I don't love shopping here. It is so small that it is extremely difficult to get around in, especially to re-fill bags from the gravity bins (eg cat crunchies). I have waited as long as fifteen minutes for an indecisive or flakey shopper (and they seem to be in the majority here) to move on before I can use the re-fill bins or containers. Nicely repeating "excuse me" rarely seems to have an effect, and since there is only enough room for one person to fit in any one section of an aisle (ie two people cannot work two sides of an aisle at the same time), the result is a great deal of spillage due to being constantly jostled, no matter how careful one is. In the co-op I worked at years ago, we put out rags, squeeze bottles of vinegar and water, and dustpans and brooms for people to use to clean up if they spilled something. I find none of these things at Peoples' and when I have tried to find a staff member to advise me, I have met with a flip and distracted manner. Several times we have also found all of the kiosks closed when we have gone to check out. I understand the financial constraints any co-op operates under, as well as scheduling conflicts, and the fact that the sheer physical smallness of the shop makes it very difficult to navigate, whether staff or shopper, but I am surprised that there is such a lack of staff at a time when so many people are out of work. My partner and I run our own business, usually working a 16-hour day, but I hope that someday we will find time to volunteer at Peoples'. In the meantime, perhaps some care could be put into making the shopping experience a little more pleasant. Re-designing the space, perhaps with a spiral configuration of the gondolas rather than straight aisles, could help. We care a great deal about the co-op and the ideals it represents; and with so few choices in Portland, we hope to continue being a part of it. But for now, we grit our teeth every time we have to go back to re-up our food supplies.
Read more at portland.citysearch.com