The Utah Co-op, located in a Murray warehouse, employs a minimalist approach to signage and promoting its hours—you have to be “in the know.” But in reality, with nearly 5,000 grocery-buying friends on its Facebook page, it’s far from a speakeasy.
“At least 80 percent of our items were requested by customers, mostly on Facebook, or we interact with them [on Facebook] and ask questions,” says volunteer director Mercedes Zel-Pappas. The co-op offers more than 5,000 items—produce, cheese, dry goods and household items—which are constantly rotating. The selection is impressive.
The process is simple. If a customer wants, say, coconut milk, Zel-Pappas researches if it’s feasible to procure; if so, she informs the customer of the wholesale price. The co-op price is only a nickel or a quarter more—just enough to cover store overhead, she says.
Examples of cost savings from the gluten-free section—a priority of late—are Bob’s Red Mill steel-cut oats ($5) and Namaste gluten-free brownie mix ($5). The co-op also sells organic and traditional produce baskets, sized for one or two people. The organic two-person basket sells at $27.50 and would normally retail for more than $100, says Zel-Pappas, adding, “We’re trying to re-educate people on what healthy foods are, and that they don’t have to cost a ton. That’s our top priority.”
Unlike typical cooperative markets, this volunteer-run one doesn’t charge membership fees. It used to, but that turned away some low-income patrons, Zel-Pappas says, which went against the co-op’s mission. It is for everyone—a place where doctors and Electronic Benefit Transfer users share recipes or wonder together what kohlrabi is. “I want everybody to feel like it is their place, like a community,” she says.
4892 S. Commerce Drive (300 West), Murray
Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.