The Citizen's Co-op is finally open! Yay! They apparently opened up earlier in the week with a "soft" opening, but DJ and I went over there on Friday to get some bulk items we needed and have a look around.
Having your own co-op in town is a really nice feeling, and when we first walked in we were greeted cheerily by everyone working and shopping. Yes, being greeted by both counter folk and shoppers might seem strange, but I think everyone is just so excited that the dang store finally opened that the mass greetings were more like, "isn't this freakin' great?!" My next impression was that the store was awfully small, but really, it's maybe a little smaller than the Ward's departments that are all hippy-fied. And it had the immediate accessibility of a corner Korean grocery that were ubiquitous in my previous hometown of Manhattan. Much, much cleaner, however. It had that new store smell.
So, after finding the corner that contained the bulk items - and there was really nothing that I noticed not present among the items I usually buy; today I had to get some flour, sea salt, and sugar. Being all about bringing my own bulk-item containers I had brought some so as not to use the baggies, and vaguely remembered a recent communication from the co-op that said they would put the tare weight on the container so they could deduct it once it was filled and weighed. I stood by the counter with my containers and very shortly a man who wasn't aiding a shopper helped me weigh the containers and put the tare weights on them. Gretchen, the big Kahuna of the Co-op, even came by to thank me for bringing containers; honestly, the first time anyone has thanked me for making more work for store employees. Then I set DJ to work filling them while I perused the store.
Well, I actually didn't really get a good look at everything because I was hovering over DJ to make sure he didn't spill more of the sugar on the floor than in the container. While I'm looking at the first picture, I just noticed that there was indeed bulk castile and Charlie's Soap in the store ("soft" opening operative, Bren, had related as much) and you can see the canisters and bottles in the lower left corner of the photo. So, they took my suggestion or is this just standard for all co-ops? Perhaps I'll never know, but I'll have to go back when we need laundry soap and dish detergent; I know they have one, but need to check on the other. They had some local produce, but I think the season made it difficult to have a lot of stock as we are in the dead summer months; they had some nice looking local peaches, however, but wavered on whether to get some even with the big chance of them rotting in my crisper.
There's a lot convenience and packaged foods - DJ found a lemongrass-flavored ramen he wanted to try - but I'm there for the local produce and bulk items, really. Along the back wall there were various affirmative statements (maybe mission statements?) about food and eating and it was all very artfully done.
The prices were all very reasonable and comparable to Ward's (I don't go to Mother Earth much so I don't know how it stacks up to that store), and that may be one of the main criticisms I have about the place; it might just be replicating other Gainesville efforts at sustainable, healthy eating. Overall, however, I was very happy with the place; lots of natural lighting, pleasant people on both sides of the counter, and a warm, gentle atmosphere made it imminently more appealing than any other food store in town. We'll definitely be going back there, if only so I can look at the dairy and meat sections, which I didn't get a chance to peruse on this visit.
Pictures of Citizen's Coop, 435 S. Main Street Gainesville, Florida 32601 | 352.505.6575 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated to include link to site, address and phone number