Co-op Stories

Forty years of stories
by Doug Walter

As 2012 winds down, we're winding up our celebration of 40 years of the Davis Food Co-op. It's been a full year, with a birthday party and family photo, an Annual Membership Meeting punctuated by a solar eclipse, and wonderful panel of people who started things called "Raising Davis."  In honor of our milestone, I’d like to re-tell a few stories that give the flavor of this Co-op’s roots.

We started as buying club, like many food co-ops. But our club was known as “The People’s Food Conspiracy,” a name that’s very 1972. When the club opened a storefront on L Street in 1976, it was so crowded with shelves and bins that two shoppers could pass in the aisle only if neither were wearing a backpack. Those who remember that time can tell you how unlikely pack-less shopping was!

People squeezed into the Co-op, and the money they spent lead to us starting a relationship with First Northern Bank of Dixon. We’re told that one day a senior Co-op cashier was waiting a minute to use the Bank’s “Merchant Window,” a special teller who accepted retail-sized deposits and dispensed coin orders. A friend and member ambled in, conversed, and then took a gander at the special line for the special window. “Not bad,” he drawled in mock solemnity, “for a bunch of hippies with a cash register!”

That bon mot of oral culture was preserved and polished by one of the great preservationists and historians of the Co-op, former newsletter Editor Chris Laning (whose work you read above on this page). Chris got off several good lines in her final editorial when she stepped down as editor in the Fall of 1995: after about a decade as Editor, she reminisced, “[a]mong my favorite memories are the thank you letter we got from Laurel herself after our review of the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, the first article written by food reviewer Camile Broadbent-Taylor (on natural sodas , it was titled “Nobody Knows the Bubbles I’ve Seen”) and the atricle by Jana Williams on vegan food that began, ‘Vegan food. Isn’t that what Spock eats? No, no, that’s Vulcan...’”

She tipped her hat to her many dedicated helpers and writers. She specially cites garden columnist Katherine Hess, “who wrote, after mentioning in an aside that her dog ‘Christmas’ had knocked over an entire stand of bean poles, ‘snails and slugs are the pests that have done the most damage to my garden without barking.’”