More than a decade in the making, the coop is set to open this year.
Many Detroiters may remember the former Cass Corridor Food Co-op that was a staple for over 20 years and closed in 2004. Almost 20 years later and more than 12 years of organizing, planning and fundraising, the Detroit People’s Food Co-op is scheduled to celebrate a grand opening later this year.
The co-op will occupy the first floor of a 34,000-square-foot newly constructed building at the corner of Woodward and Euclid in the North End neighborhood of Detroit. The Detroit Food Commons building is a jointly shared development between the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Develop Detroit. They will co-own the building and land. Detroit People’s Food Co-op members are not owners of the real estate parcels.
Malik Yakini, the executive director and co-founder of the network, described Detroit as “the urban agricultural capital of the United States” during a 2021 interview with WDET. Yakini is a well-known national leader and advocate of food justice, one of the co-founders of D-Town Farm in Rouge Park, and part of a grassroots group of Detroiters who have nurtured the vision for the Detroit Food Commons and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op for over a decade.
Yakini told Planet Detroit that as the developers struggled to assemble funding for Detroit Food Commons, some green amenities – like a living green roof – had to be eliminated because of the additional cost. However, the parking lot will have an underground water retention system. “The building is currently about 40% complete with the blocks for the four walls complete,” he said. “The facing bricks are about 75% in place and all major steel and roofing panels are in place.”
The Detroit People’s Food Co-op is a Black-led, member-owned grocery cooperative, which will be located in the historic North End neighborhood at 8324 Woodward Avenue, inside the Detroit Food Commons building.
There is a shortage of quality full-service grocery stores in the city of Detroit and more are needed. The Detroit People’s Food Co-op will serve a neighborhood that currently does not have a grocery store inside its boundaries. The co-op also wants people from all areas to shop at the store. The location will allow anyone traveling along Woodward, one of the most traveled roads in Detroit, to become regular customers – which will be the key to staying open.
Below are some frequently asked questions about the Detroit Food Commons and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op:
What is a food co-op?
A food co-op is a grocery store that its members cooperatively own. Members decide the type of food the store sells, how it operates, and many other things. Some food co-ops offer items not found at traditional grocery stores, and many specialize in offering healthier food options.
Are there any other food co-ops in metro Detroit or Michigan?
Food co-ops can be found in more than ten communities across Michigan. They are often found in college towns or affluent neighborhoods. Some examples include People’s Food Co-op, Ypsilanti Food Co-op, Eastside Lansing Food Co-op, Grand Rapids Food Co-op, Marquette Food Co-op, Oryana Community Co-op, and GreenTree Co-op Market. Many co-ops across the state agreed to work together to raise money to support DPFC, in keeping with cooperative principles.
What will be sold at the Detroit People’s Food Co-op?
DPFC will be a full-service grocery store offering various items, including locally grown produce, groceries, baked goods, meats, fish, dairy, frozen foods, health and beauty items, beer, and wine. The store will also offer a deli and prepared foods department.
What makes the DPFC different from traditional grocery stores?
The DPFC will offer educational materials and classes to help people learn about nutrition, cooking, healthy living, sustainability, community development, and more. In line with cooperative principles, DPFC will work with other businesses to support their efforts and keep as much money as possible within Detroit.
What is the Detroit Food Commons?
The Detroit Food Commons is the name of the brand-new building being constructed at the corner of Woodward and Euclid, where the Detroit People’s Food Co-op will lease space. The Detroit Food Commons will also house the administrative offices for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, several shared kitchen spaces, meeting rooms, event spaces, and classrooms. Vendor booths may be set up outside during the warmer months.
Is it a 501(c)3 nonprofit?
The Detroit People’s Food Co-op is not a federally registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. The Detroit Food Commons is co-owned by two nonprofit organizations, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Develop Detroit.
How long has this project been in the works?
Discussions to form the DPFC began in 2010. Over 30 community listening sessions were held in the early stages of planning.
How is this development project funded?
Unlike many other start-up food co-ops, the DPFC is in a unique situation. The Detroit Food Commons is absorbing much of the start-up costs needed for the cooperative. The list of funders for the Detroit Food Commons and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op can be found in this Kresge Foundation story about the groundbreaking in 2022.
How can I join the Detroit People’s Food co-op?
Go to the DPFC website to join the co-op. You can pay the lifetime $200 per person fee at one time or spacing out the payments monthly until paid off. Currently, there are over 1,700 member/owners of the DPFC. It’s not too late to join. Membership is open to any Michigan resident, age 21 and up. Contact DPFC at [email protected] or call 833-373-2313.
Why should I pay to become a member of the DPFC?
Your membership gives you a share of ownership in the DPFC. That means that if the store is profitable, members can decide whether to reinvest their share back into the business, receive a profit-sharing amount or donate to a local nonprofit. As a member, you can also run and vote for the board of directors and give input on how the store is run and what products are on shelves. You will have a say in the store, which is not the case in a traditional grocery store business. There may also be an added benefit to members of periodic discounts on select products. Shoppers do not have to be members. Everyone can come and shop at the store.
Where else can I learn more about co-ops?
Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice by Jessica Gordon Nembhard.
Disclosure: Angela Lugo-Thomas is a volunteer board member for the Detroit People’s Food Co-op.