Will Long Beach Get a Cooperative Grocery Store?

Categories: Food Politics

The September 2012 closing of an Albertsons grocery store in central Long Beach inadvertently opened the door to a new idea. Residents began soliciting chains like Trader Joe's and Sprouts to come in, only to have their letter-writing campaigns rebuffed on the grounds that the area didn't fit demographic needs (aka not white enough). Out of the frustrating experience, neighbors began wondering if a co-op grocery store might better serve the community and its needs.

"If nobody is going to open a market, maybe we should open it ourselves," says Damon Lawrence, a founding board member of Long Beach Grocery Co-op.

He originally got the idea from a vacation he took with his wife in Portland, Oregon. It was there that Lawrence got his first co-op experience, when a cashier at the Alberta Co-op Grocery store asked him if he was a member. "What does that mean?" Lawrence replied. He got the whole spiel in response. "This is owned by the community, really?" he asked in bewilderment.

If readers are bewildered too, it's because cooperatives as an alternative economy don't get much media play. They're businesses owned and managed by workers and consumers as opposed to corporate structuring. About 30,000 co-operatives currently employ 2 million people in the United States, according to the National Co-operative Business Association.

Thinking of replicating the consumer-owned model in his own hometown, Lawrence began researching and was surprised by what he learned. "They are all over the United States, even in the South!" he says. Locally, in Southern California, grocery stores organized in such a way are rarer though. San Diego and Isla Vista have them, but OC and the IE don't. Lawrence did find Co-opportunity Natural Foods in Santa Monica and headed out to find out more. "I was floored by how well it was run, how friendly and knowledgeable the staff was," he says. Their sustainable food system principles impressed him as well.

The experience convinced Lawrence further to spearhead the effort in his city. That night he turned to Facebook and started a simple "Long Beach Grocery Co-op" page. It struck a nerve overnight as he awoke to 200 "likes."The site now inches towards 7,000. Board members introduced themselves offline recently as they set up a booth for the city's Green Prize Festival. Onlookers met them with enthusiasm.

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I am happy there may be a co-op coming to Long Beach. I wish we had one in Garden Grove.


This is definitely something we need in Long Beach.  Funnel the profits back into our community instead of giving all our money to big corporations. 


I think it's a great idea. 


I think it's a great idea. And while we're at it, let's remember to support our Credit Unions, and take our business AWAY from the big banks. 


I'm really excited about the idea of Ling Beach getting a food co-op...before moving down here, I spent six years shopping almost exclusively at food co-ops and volunteering me time at my two local food co-op locations.

The nearest food co-op I know of, is in Santa Monica...and I don't feel like I should have to drive almost thirty miles just to have access to quality food and I'm not putting money back into my local economy.

There are a quite a few neighborhoods in Long Beach that have become food deserts, and I feel that if we had a few food co-op locations, that our community could work to solve food access problems in our city...Fast food should not be the only choice of food in any neighborhood.

Our food co-op should also accept EBT/Snap benefits and offer low income memberships to those who qualify, as well as discounts when you volunteer your time at the co-op.

It's really important to me that we have a community owned and operated food store, it's something we need in Long Beach, and it will over all be a great benefit to the community.


I really would like a local co-op in Long Beach...after spending six years in the northwest shopping almost exclusively at food co-ops, it's what I believe every community needs...too bad we can't get more than one location for the food co-op (cities like Portland and Seattle, even tiny Olympia, have more than one co-op/co-op location), there are food deserts in Long Beach that could greatly benefits from a community owned and operated food store.


@JBinOC . Do you live in our area of  Long Beach? If not don't comment on what you know nothing about.  Do you know Albertson's was bought by a private equity firm?  They closed a store that probably would have been fine if they had just remodeled like the Ralphs a couple of blocks away.  It was easier to close the store than bring it up to date and cater to the changing tastes of the area.  You may not know it but there is a burgeoning local food movement in this town. People of all nationalities are rejecting the corporate model of our food supply.  There are a lot of good people out in the community educating the people on the evils of Monsanto, GMO's and processed foods. People aren't buying churros on the street my friend they are going to the many farmers markets in record numbers to get fresh local produce. Also there is an strong urban ag culture building as well. Nobody want's the B.S. that big corporations are passing off as food once they know the truth. Everyone needs to know about Long Beach Fresh, Localism , Chef Paul Buchanan, Farm Lot 59, Spring street garden project, Long beach Grows, it's groups like this that are making a real difference in this town.

JBinOC topcommenter

I'm pro co(-op).  But -- as is always the case -- in Mr. San Román's zeal to incorporate a racist aside against altruistic and upstanding White-Americans, the facts are skewed.  After Albertsons closed, Top-Valu -- a Latino (!) market -- opened in that same location.  It didn't last 6 months. 

To be fair, there's a chance -- an infinitesimal one -- that Albertsons and Top-Valu both didn't run good businesses.  But could it be that Albertsons and Top-Valu learned the hard way what Trader Joe's and Sprouts assessed -- that the "non-Whites" in the neighborhood would rather buy their churros from an unlicensed, 'tax-exempt' shopping cart outside the store, rather than rolling similar shopping carts inside to buy legitimately-vended baked goods? 

If Mr. San Román's credibility didn't tank after exaggerating the apprehension of youth by a truly good law enforcement officer in Santa Ana, here's another example to fan the flames of disaccreditation. 

It's always the same...moan, play the victim...when, in fact, often times, it's the consumer behavior of "non-Whites" themselves that does more harm  -- even to Latino (!) businesses like Top-Valu -- than the big bad Whities at corporate supermarket America.  

Sorry.  I call it like I see it. 

gabrielsanroman topcommenter

@JBinOCHey buddy, knowing the Belmont Heights area well and having gone to that actual Albertsons a number of times, I think a Trader Joe's or a Sprouts could have done very well there. Top Valu didn't. It's the dumb ass demographic metrics used by those stores (not mine) that issued the 'demographic' diss!


@gabrielsanroman @JBinOC   I also think Trader Joe's could have done well but that building needs so much work ..That takes me to the old Big Lots that has been remolded and a Super Saver has moved in ..Also Latino based it is not doing very well ..I have a feeling that building might be up for rent so and would be a great location for the co op 

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