Co-opportunity in Santa Monica for the first time yesterday to checkout their goods. Co-op has been around in Santa Monica longer than me (opened in 1974) and my mom used to be a member primarily for their vitamins, but for some reason, I had never been. It's not a total co-op in the sense that the members don't operate the stores as well, but you can purchase a membership for $25 per year for 8 years for a total of $200, which buys you a lifetime membership of the co-op. As a member, you get special discounts and dividends at the end of the year (who knows how its actually calculated) but I hear that you easily recoup the membership fee. It's similar to REI from what I understand.
Co-op is Santa Monica's only certified green grocer and specializes in natural, healthy goods. I was impressed by their large selection of organic produce, almost as large as Whole Foods and definitely much better than Trader Joes. They are also well known for their bulk goods, from an even wider variety of spices than Whole Foods, to nuts, grains, tea and coffee. I picked up Nancy's lowfat organic raspberry kefir which I like better than both Whole Food's Lifeway kefir and Trader Joe's kefir (actually tastes like real fruit), and some organic onions, avocados and serrano peppers. I tried everything last night and it was great! Co-op has also an interesting selection of vegetarian and vegan items (more than Whole Foods) that I'm looking forward to trying out. You don't need to have a membership to shop there, but I think I will buy one. Hopefully it will be that nice bridge between Trader Joes and Whole Foods. I don't like Trader Joe's produce; they don't have a large selection, the produce doesn't really seem to be seasonal nor local, their organic selection is small, and they prepackage a lot of the produce, which inherently makes it less fresh. I rely on a lot of Trader Joe's pantry items, but I think the bulk bins at Co-op will have even higher quality items at good prices. Whole Foods is just too expensive at times and occasionally has a "mass-market" feel to it. I have to do more price comparisons, but it seems that Co-op is cheaper and puts a lot of care and attention into selecting every single item on their shelves, since they are only one store, plus their members have input. We'll see though! Hopefully it saves me some running around; I'm tired of needing to go to both Whole Foods and Trader Joes every other day.
Santa Monica, CA 90404