Syracuse Real Food Coop

Syracuse, New York


rating star

I support the overall principles this store claims to care about but the shopping experience is often not too pleasant. It's cramped and the checkout lines are slow. I've also felt some of the staff act a bit condescending to me when they ask for my owner number and I tell them I'm not one.

The best thing about the store is the bulk section. Most of the other groceries could be found at larger, more mainstream stores for somewhat lower prices.

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Dear Real Food Coop - No one cares about your blog or myspace profile. Please stop chatting with your friends, making yourself a bite to eat, and surfing the web in the back of the store while 4 people wait in line at your one open register. If for some reason all the people hanging out in the back of the store are off-duty employees, they need to go away, stop confusing the customers with their presence, and let the on-duty employees help customers. Also - when someone comes in looking for something you don't have but probably should, instead of looking chipper and nonplussed maybe you could act concerned or make motions towards ensuring that item is stocked in the future.

rating star

Oh what a confused establishment this coop is. On one hand, it's an extremely convenient stop-over if you live in the Syracuse University neighborhood. It has the best selection of vegetarian/vegan groceries in town. Their organic and bulk raw foods offerings aren't bad. And the hours (9 to 9 every day) are easy to remember and quite accommodating.

At the same time, the staffers at Real Food seem more interested in turning their coop into some vague 24/7 meeting than a fully functional grocery. Though the store layout has greatly improved over the past year, the powers that be still seem reluctant to move to a much-needed bigger space. The produce at the coop is sometimes pretty sad. A year ago I found a dead fly in a bag of pine nuts from Real Food - so I suggest carefully inspecting any bulk foods. The bread Real Food gets most mornings from a couple of local bakeries is good, but don't expect to find an extensive array of pre-packaged prepared veggie meals there.

On the whole, coop staffers tend to be rather cliquish and defensive. Real Food is totally in love with its blog. Perhaps that's where you can find mention of in-store events (like late spring veggie plant sales), but fat chance seeing these happenings clearly publicized in the store, on the official website, or advertised in any local publication. In theory shoppers can submit questions and recommendations to the in-store "suggestion box," but the posted responses are often so hostile in tone it just isn't worth the effort.

I and several friends (separately) volunteered to help out at the coop (supposedly you can trade hours for store credit), but no one ever contacted us about assisting in any way. There's a lot of talk at the coop about "community building" and "grassroots activism," but not much substance behind the words. A recent coop survey actually asked how important the respondents thought it was to shop at an establishment that supported "justice." What? Rather than tossing around a lot of vague liberal rhetoric, Real Food coop would be better served by focusing on improving its facilities, service, and food quality.

rating star

I hate this place! I stopped by the other day looking for tofu and they had none. NONE. What kind of coop doesn't have tofu? The woman behind the counter was just like, "Yeah, we ran out. We should get some more tomorrow." Yeah, thanks for nothing. I moved from a town a fraction the size of Syracuse and the coop here is so much worse than the one I knew in my old location!

If these guys seriously want to thrive and grow they'd do the following:

*Do what it takes to make sure they have common staples (like tofu) available

*Make a note of if when customers ask for something not in stock or not carried by the coop and then make a point of carrying it in the future

*Publicize in-store events with posters *in the store* and through their list-serv ("customer" or "coop appreciation days" don't count because people wanting to do regular shopping avoid these days like the plague, since they assume the already cramped coop will be even more crowded)

***Learn how to be professional in responding to suggestions and criticism (ex. don't take it personally when someone suggests you move to a larger space - even if you don't mean it, simply thank the person for their suggestion and say you'll take it into consideration - this isn't lying, it's called "tact.")

*If having extra bodies around trying to earn store credit just isn't practical then simply drop the program. Don't say you offer this program and then not respond when people try to join up. Likewise, if letting people order special items out of your supplier catalog is too much of a pain drop that too (instead of hiding the catalog in a corner and hemming and hawing when a customer needs help placing an order). Big point: Don't go at things half-assed.

*Visit other coops and get ideas for what does and doesn't work well *from a customer's point of view.*

*Remember you sell groceries, not ideas. It's all well and good to support local farmers and the community, but this means absolutely nothing if your produce is rotten, your store poorly stocked, and your facilities difficult to navigate. You can't eat "coop principles," and if you don't even have tofu in stock your customers might as well shop at Wegmans.

rating star

I agree with the other poster - this place has a lot of problems. The store is cramped. The cashiers - while genuinely nice - are often clueless. It's weird what you can and can't find there. Like onions. I went to Real Food specifically for yellow cooking onions the other day and they only had 2 - one of which I discovered was rotten when I got home. How's this place supposed to be a one-stop shop for all your basic kitchen needs? And the folks who run the place - oh my god they're defensive! These guys give liberals a bad name - all this talk about Coop principles and community programs, yet I can't even find pecans in stock. I've heard their board meetings are some of the most unproductive events imaginable.

Most of the time it's just easier for me to shop at Wegmans. Real Food has a decent selection of vegan products. Too bad these guys can't get their heads out of their rears enough to run their coop like a business instead of an idealistic dysfunctional mess. I want to like this place much more than I really do (and I'm sure a lot of other people who've known fantastic coops in other cities feel the same way).

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