OP-EDS

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November 13, 2007

Co-Op fails to produce

For years, the Hyde Park Co-Op Market has given new meaning to the term “bad apple.” The Co-Op, which has slimmed from three locations to just one in the past three years, has combined low-quality produce, exorbitant prices, and almost farcical mismanagement, sending many residents elsewhere in search of better grocery options.

Now, with the Co-Op $1.2 million behind in rent and unable to pay its creditors, the University, which is the Co-Op’s landlord, has offered to bail out the store. The University is proposing to forgive most of the Co-Op’s debt, help pay off its creditors, and replace the Co-Op with a new grocer within two weeks of the building being vacated. Considering the store’s consistent failure, the University’s offer seems particularly generous. Unfortunately, it’s also the only feasible option.

The Co-Op’s board of directors will hold a town-hall meeting on Sunday to consider the University’s offer, alongside two other options: taking out another loan or filing for bankruptcy. Both of these proposals would only delay the store’s inevitable closing. While the final decision is in the Co-Op members’ hands, the University must refuse to provide more loans or renew the lease should the board nix the bail-out offer. The University’s offer is the only way to allow the community access to a high-quality, affordable supermarket.

That the Co-Op has lasted this long in a state of disrepair is a testament to both Hyde Parkers’ resistance to change and the University’s efforts to appease their demands. The community’s protectionist sentiment has waned in recent years—allowing chain establishments such as Jimmy John’s and Potbelly Sandwich Works to finally set up shop in Hyde Park—but it still plays a significant role in the neighborhood.

While it is perhaps understandable that residents would like to preserve the neighborhood’s character, efforts to restrict development can do more harm than good, stifling economic growth and propping up failed businesses like the Co-Op. By blindly supporting the Co-Op, residents have paid a higher price for significantly worse quality.

It has become increasingly clear that the Co-Op has no sustainable operating plan, and this time it has dug itself a hole too deep to climb out of. The University and the community must learn from the Co-Op debacle and invite outside competition into Hyde Park. Be it Trader Joe’s, Dominick’s, or some other chain store, this neighborhood deserves an affordable, financially stable supermarket.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.