Around the Corner in Hackensack – Pilot Independent
The Countryside Food Co-op in Hackensack started in the 1970s with humble beginnings in the old Walker Armory building. It began as a food buying club (Leech Lake Buying Club) and served 109 households from the area. The purpose was to provide better nutrition to low income families.
In November 1976 the co-op moved to Hackensack to open a brick and mortar storefront operation in the building currently occupied by Edina Realty. By January 1977 membership had grown by almost 100 percent, serving 209 households. A year later membership had leaped to 300 households and the name was changed to Countryside Food Co-op.
The Co-op purchased its current property in 1978. Because of the vision of the founders, Countryside has been bringing healthy choices and affordable products for over four decades.
Although most people enjoy the benefit of membership, it is not mandatory in order to shop at the Co-op. All of the products are priced at wholesale costs. Members pay 10 percent above wholesale, while non-members pay 30 percent above wholesale cost. A 12-month membership is only $5, making the benefit quite worth the cost.
Countryside is a family place with warm decor; a place where running into old friends is as common as making new ones. There’s a coziness to the building like an old friend’s home created by the volunteers who are the heart and soul of Countryside. Without them, there is no Countryside.
During the pandemic over the past year many volunteers have felt vulnerable and some have made the difficult decision that, until the virus is under better control, they don’t want to expose themselves (or their families) to it.
COVID-19 brought its challenges to the store. Because the Co-op is staffed with volunteers, the Board of Directors made the very painful decision to close the store in March. The priority was to keep volunteers and their families safe.
In July Countryside reopened the store for curbside pickup, with online ordering available. They are now open for in-store shopping, with restrictions on the number of shoppers in the store and mandatory mask wearing. The store has installed a new ventilation system to recycle the air more frequently, and they follow CDC guidelines for volunteers and for sanitation.
Now more than ever, if you have ever thought about becoming a volunteer with Countryside, please stop by the store and they will welcome you with open arms.
Some tasks that need attending to are ordering products from vendors, store maintenance, laundry, business administrative duties, cheese cutting, working the spice counter and cashiering.
Every volunteer is highly valued, and volunteers chose their own hours so they can work as little or much as you want.
Countryside has had hundreds of volunteers over the years, literally generations of families who support the store because of the wonderful demeanor of the help and the quality of the products.
Several original products are still offered, just as the original Leach Lake Buying Club offered them, such as bulk flour, oats, beans, rice, and grains. However, the Co-op is best known for the extensive selection of cheeses and spices that are priced very low indeed.
Spices are fresh and plentiful, sold to order so customers can choose their quantity and their order is filled instantly. Customers can purchase as much or little as needed. Countryside boasts around 100 spices available, bulk nuts and candies of several varieties.
Other popular items are bulk maple syrup, molasses, peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, and soy sauce. Many products are locally sourced including honey, maple syrup and wild rice.
As customer needs change, Countryside changes to meet their needs. They now offer a large variety of gluten free, vegetarian and special dietary products. For information go to countrysideco-op.com.