From the Sun Times on the demise of a Hyde Park institution founded in 1932.
Meanwhile, some Hyde Park residents, who complained about the Co-Op's above-average prices and sometimes subpar service, didn't see what was worth saving at all.I have fond memories of Hyde Park and Kenwood. My Dad had a Dime Store not far from the Co-op at 63rd and Blackstone in the 50s and early 60s. We'd spend time in Hyde Park and he'd take me around the University and over to Harding's Castle to see the armor and swords.
Many Hyde Park residents had taken pride in having a community-owned supermarket that embodied progressive values and stocked a wide range of products reflecting the rare diversity of the neighborhood.
Its members over the years included prominent liberal politicians such as former Ald. Leon Despres, retired federal Judge Abner Mikva and former U.S. Sen. Paul Douglas, who is said to have advised the Co-Op's founders while he was a U. of C. economics professor.
But several financial missteps -- namely the failure of two satellite stores -- crippled its finances. And the idealism of its mission collided with the brutal reality of failed expansions, mushrooming debt, and increasingly frustrated customers for whom lofty values ceased to trump high prices and often shoddy service.
Paul Douglas was a hero of my Dad's. Probably the only politician he considered a hero. Leon Despres the lone fighting reformer for open-housing which was then the defining liberal issue in Chicago as far I knew. So the Co-op's closing stirs some memories.
Today my kids don't even know what a Dime Store is. Small time capitalism is about as out of date as cooperative progressivism. Hanging on to high prices and sub-par from either not very progressive.
There should never have to be a trade off between lofty ideals and high prices or shoddy service. (Often ideals given up when there is a deal at Walmart. I've met fellow Liberals buying tires there.)
Low prices and good service lead to increased wealth for all, and if the economic disruption creates an injustice then progressive politicians should mitigate it, but ideals should never obstruct the greater good of economic growth. A progressivism that can't reconcile those things probably should go the way of the Co-op.