What is a CO-OP?

Simply put a co-operative (or CO-OP) is an independent democratic organization that is owned, operated, and financed by its member-owners. A CO-OP is committed to the people it serves and the community in which they live.

If you prefer a more authoratative definition: "A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise." -International Co-operative Alliance

How is a CO-OP different from a CSA?

Through Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) a farm offers produce to the public for a certain price per share - typically a box of produce or products. CSA’s are often (but not always) seasonal with produce picked up weekly or bi-weekly. Most CSA memberships give little or no choice regarding the content of their share. Sometimes CSA’s require members to work for a certain number of hours on the farm.

On the other hand, a CO-OP market is a physical store that operates year-round like any other grocery store. The market sells not only a selection of produce (that you can CHOOSE from) but also meat, dairy, non-perishable foods, spices, cleaning products, household items, and wellness/health products.

Is the CO-OP a non-profit organization?

No. The Catonsville Cooperative Market is a for-profit grocery store. A profit is necessary to keep our doors open! Profits for a co-operative grocer are first used to improve store operations and then returned to members in the form of dividends. However, we envision eventually establishing a non-profit arm for the CO-OP to conduct community outreach.

What does it cost?

The Catonsville Cooperative Market offers Founding Memberships for $200, a one-time payment for lifetime ownership. A Founding Member is anyone who joins the CO-OP prior to the opening of a full-time storefront. We do offer payment plans and work equity options. Your $200 gives you a 'share' in the co-operative, which affords you ownership and investment in the success and operations of the CO-OP. The Founding Member fee is non-refundable.

What products are available?

The CO-OP provides members access to hundreds of products including fresh produce and natural products from local producers. We currently have partnerships with several local farms; dairies; a bakery; a local honey producer; local spice, salsa, and frozen treat producers; and a fair trade coffee cooperative.

We also have thousands of natural products for home, kitchen, body, wellness, and pets available through the Frontier Online Co-op. Products are available from such brands as Frontier, Simply Organic, Seventh Generation, Burt’s Bees, Kiss My Face, Avalon Organics, JASON Organics, EcoFriendly, and Dr. Bronner’s - just to name a few.

How do prices compare?

On average, our prices are currently less than what you will find at a conventional grocery store. Given our low overhead and volunteer-run Market, we are able to keep our mark-up low. However, our ordering capacity isn't quite as large as some of the bigger markets. As we grow with space, paid staff, and convenience our mark-up will likely slightly increase. However, in an effort to serve ALL members of our community we will do our best to keep healthy food affordable and accessible through various programs and thoughtful decision-making. And because you are a part-owner of the store, your input matters!

Is there a minimum I must spend?

No. There is no set minimum dollar amount you must spend.

Is there a minimum number of times I must order?

No. You can order once every two weeks, once every few months, or once in a while.

Do I have to buy in bulk?

No. While there are some bulk products available, most products are sold in “normal” sizes.

How do I order and pick up products?

Using our online ordering site you can pre-order perishable products such as dairy, ferments, and bread. Pick-up occurs at our Market held every other Tuesday, 4:30pm-8pm. More details can be found on our Market page.

Am I required to volunteer?

No. But, as a grassroots movement, the CO-OP is currently operated entirely by volunteers. More volunteers are needed to make a full-time storefront a reality.

How will the CO-OP fund a storefront?

In short, more Owners. With a greater number of Owners, the CO-OP is able to provide evidence of substantial community investment allowing us to approach financial institutions, other collaborators, and give our Members faith in funding the store through a capital loan campaign.