Co-opportunity, Santa Monica’s food co-op, celebrated its 35th birthday on August 23 with a block party. 16th Street, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway was closed off, as faithful customers and curious newcomers flocked to booths selling healthy food products typical of Co-opportunity’s fare.
While the Jim Kimo West group played Hawaiian music appropriate to the sultry weather, block party celebrants feasted on products like Tia’s Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake, and Zevia sugar-free soda. People lined up at a booth offering an assortment of tofu-based salads. Co-op regulars hugged each other hello, while first-timers looked at Co-opportunity literature and listened to volunteers pitching them to join.
Co-opportunity member and former Santa Monica Mayor Dennis Zane spoke briefly about the co-op as “the beginning of a tradition of community building” in Santa Monica.
“In those days  there was no rent control, no Farmer’s Market. There were many things that did not exist,” said Zane. He saluted Co-opportunity’s founding families, “who were determined to provide an alternative” in food shopping, and recalled how he himself was one of Co-opportunity’s produce buyers in the early years-because he owned a pickup truck. “Three of us did it three times a week. That was the beginning of my involvement in the Santa Monica community.”
Co-opportunity was started in 1974 by several Santa Monica residents, some of whom had been members of an earlier food co-op started during the Depression. These co-op veterans wanted a store that focused more on organic and natural foods and free-range organic meats. When the original location in West Los Angeles proved too small for the growing market, the Co-op moved to a location on Broadway in Santa Monica and currently occupies a building at 16th and Broadway.
The name “Co-opportunity” was suggested during a group meeting during the founding days of the co-op., by a “young hippie” who had no shoes and whose name nobody learned. According to Co-opportunity’s press info, the stranger, after listening to some of the discussion, remarked: “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been listening to you talk about this as a great opportunity and how it’s a co-op – why not call it Co-opportunity?”
These days, Co-opportunity is a bustling market (it was wall-to-wall customers during the Block Party), offering a wide range of health food products, canned, packaged, and fresh, for lower prices than are found in most health food outlets. The deli features bins with salads and pasta mixtures such as Garlic Pasta for $7.99 a pound and Italian Herb Salad for $8.49 a pound.
Carol Horowitz, a Co-opportunity volunteer, explained to the Mirror that membership is $25 a year, 100 per cent refundable. Members get special discounts twice a year, with additional weekly ten per cent discounts after age 60. Horowitz, who along with her husband, has been a member for 30 years, pointed out that even a single person can make use of Co-opportunity’s deli bins, choosing just the amount of food desired, and paying by the amount.