Troy Night Out is a monthly cultural event where locally owned businesses: art galleries, craft studios, restaurants, bakeries, bars, cafes and book stores keep their doors open to the community, Fridays 5-9pm. Some businesses display artwork or free snacks and drinks, galleries have their openings, restaurant and bars tend to have local musicians. There’s a free trolley that you can jump on and off to visit the various happenings around town. Troy is ALIVE and PULSING on these evenings, whereas most nights everything closes at 5pm, except the bodegas and the restaurants.
On Friday, September 24th, this month’s Troy Night Out, had a special treat. Pioneer, Troy Community Food Co-op, opened its doors for a sneak peek into the grocery store, which will open on October 5th. You might say- so what? Well this is an important food justice story. You see, Troy New York has no grocery stores or other city conveniences like dry cleaners, gyms, movie theaters, retail boutiques and cafes that stay open later than 5pm– nada. A major bonus of living in the city is that you can WALK to places. Residents of the city of Troy have to drive or take mass transit to other cities, like Latham, East Greenbush, Colonie, Albany and Watervliet to do their basic shopping. Don’t even get me started on mass transit in our area. For the first two years upon my return from Los Angeles, I didn’t own or have access to a car. So I’ve been there. Waiting in freezing temperatures for 20, 30, 40 minutes waiting for a bus that might never show so you’re waiting for the next scheduled bus.
So if you are a Troy resident, without access to a car, a trip to the grocery store could be a three-hour process. A sweaty three hours- humping those bags of groceries out of the store, to the bus stop, and then the walk home. I’m tired just writing that sentence. That’s a lot for a person to go through to get some basic necessities that a grocery store offers. I can “jump” in my car and be at a grocery store within 2 minutes. I avoid that unnamed store (starts with an H) because they don’t have one allergy-friendly item in the entire store – boo hoo for me. If I need toilet paper, bananas, cat food, seltzer, a birthday card, infant Tylenol, or condoms I can be there in minutes. Lucky. Suburban. Me.
Some in the food justice world coined this scenario a “food desert” (article on topic in TIME magazine). No fresh produce, meat, poultry, grains or other non-processed foods, needed for a healthy diet, to be had in an x-miles radius. Usually corner stores, bodegas, fill the gap by selling boxed, canned and freeze-dried food stuffs- among all the other midnight snack, alcoholic and smokey treats one might crave after a few hours at the bar…..my point, stressing it again: the only grocery game in town. In addition, these stores take advantage of the need and the prices are usually higher (not always) than a grocery store. I should say that Troy does have a very successful farmer’s market on Saturday mornings and on one weekday during midday.
So in comes Troy Community Food Co-op right smack dab in the middle of downtown Troy! This co-op has been in the works for many years; there have been ups and downs. I can not imagine the hard work and struggle it has taken to lift this massive idea off the ground and make it reality. I’m not going to go into what a cooperative business model is, for more general information go to the National Cooperative Business Association, but what I will say is that cooperatives put people, the community, in the forefront and focus control to the member-owners who have voting rights, economic equity into the business, can run for the Board of Directors, sit on committees, ect. A long-standing local example of this model is Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY.
From Pioneer’s website:
“The Troy Community Food Co-op’s mission is to provide wholesome food at affordable prices in a cooperatively owned grocery store. The Co-op will support local agriculture, stimulate community revitalization, and be a collaborative community partner.
Open to the public, the Troy Community Food Co-op will be a retail grocery store selling fresh produce, fresh meat, dairy products, prepared food for take-out, paper products, and canned, frozen, and packaged foodstuffs. The Co-op will offer approximately 70% natural/organic products and 30% conventional groceries, and it will provide steady jobs for local residents.”
Back to Troy Night Out. Sarah & I met with our respective boys (both husbands and sons included in this umbrella term) and raced to Pioneer as our first stop of the evening. Pioneer is truly close to opening. Boxes of cereal are on shelves, cases of snack foods lay on the ground, deli cases and hot buffet and checkout equipment installed. Lettering for the “bulk”, “deli” and “produce” are up. I know from being a follower on Facebook, that have been encouraging people to apply for a variety of jobs. The store is sweaky clean and new. Gorgeous. We met one of the Board Members, Ms. Jill Terry, and made small talk about the opening in a few weeks. Sarah and her family live in Troy, so in between chasing our sons Collin and Miles, we discussed our excitement to shop and become possible members. I don’t live Troy, but Pioneer is closer than Honest Weight and due to Miles’ allergies I have to buy a ton of specialty product weekly so another locally owned place to shop the better! Ms. Terry was so sweet as to request a list of my needed brands and GF flours so she can find out if Pioneer will be carrying any or all of the products.
I just looked up the membership benefits and they are AWESOME. I still can’t believe what I read: Troy members get 2% off their purchases as Honest Weight and 10% off Some Girls Boutique among the regular co-op benefits like voting, exclusive deals, quarterly appreciation days and others. Please take a look at their website for more information. To follow them on Facebook, go here.
Congratulations Troy residents one step closer to normal city life!