Check out the Ypsi Food Co-op

Jun 6 2011 in Scene by Tim Adkins

Sonic Lunch Presented by Bank of Ann Arbor

What’s Small and Yellow and Kitty-Corner to the Sidetrack?

I love to eat and I love good food. I love to cook. And I love the Ypsilanti Food Co-op. I’ve done the
majority of my grocery shopping there for more than 10 years. I love the Co-op so much that, after
25 years as a member, I finally had to get a job there.

The Co-op is a hidden gem in Depot Town at River Street & East Cross. From my house, I can zip down there on my bike in about 10 minutes—faster than I can drive. The River Street Bakery run by the Co-op makes mouthwatering bread that rivals Zingerman’s. It’s all made with sourdough
starter, and that means a taste that’s unique to Ypsilanti. The wild yeasts in the starter don’t exist
anywhere else on earth. As someone who grew up “down-a-shore” (in South Jersey), I also treasure
the soft pretzels made at the Co-op. These salty twists are even yummier than the ones from my
childhood and I can tell myself “they’re healthy, too.” Other Co-op staples I couldn’t live without:
Mexican Vienna-roast coffee (organic!), Alaskan salmon (wild-caught!), and Grassfields’ garlic &
onion cheese (from Michigan!).

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the Co-op is open to everyone — you don’t have to be a member to stop in for a loaf of bread, a six-pack of craft beer, or a side dish for your supper. Being a member has its perks, but anyone is welcome to come in and shop. The Co-op carries just about
everything: from hot soup to a cup of coffee, from laundry soap to tortilla chips, from anchovies to zucchini. The Co-op has a full line of groceries in a small neighborhood store setting.

If you’re like me, you probably feel a little overwhelmed by the scope of the crises we confront in our world: global warming; economic chaos; questionable food safety; high fuel prices; urban sprawl; and so much more. Shopping at the Co-op is the perfect way to “Think Global; Act Local.”
The question of how to spend my limited funds also brings me to the Co-op. Consider the following questions:

Rather shop “bricks and mortar” and support businesses nearby? The Co-op is a non-profit grocery
store owned by its members. All the money gets re-invested into the store instead of leaving town
to line the pockets of distant shareholders. In our struggling Michigan economy, the Ypsilanti Food
Co-op is one business that is thriving and growing. The Co-op has experienced double-digit sales
growth for each of the past 6 years. The store is about to expand …again. Think we should wake up
and smell the (fair-trade) coffee?

Want to fight global warming? The Co-op has a total of 42 solar panels helping to power the store
and bakery. Every sunny day, our meter spins backwards. (Check it out at And
almost anyone who lives in the city of Ypsilanti can walk or bike to the Depot Town location.
Plus, the Co-op stocks dozens of items grown on nearby farms or made by local producers. YFC
sells local produce of some kind nearly every day of the year, from local apples from Almar and
Appleschram, to kale grown by the new Farm at St. Joe’s, to pickles canned by McClure’s and The
Brinery, not to mention local pies, pasta, pierogies, pork and pitas. As Dan Carmody, president of
Eastern Market, has pointed out, Michigan has the second highest number of independent farms
in the nation and, at the Co-op, the customer can take full advantage of that fact. By sourcing local
goods, a whole lot of carbon emissions don’t get emitted and high fuel prices become less of a

Hate sprawl? Want to live a greener life? The “greenest” building is one that is already built. The Co-op is located in a downtown neighborhood in the historic Millworks Building. Where once mill parts were manufactured, now grocery shopping takes place. Our downtown spaces remain vital and interesting places to hang out as a result.

Disgusted that food often is shipped across the country (or world) and “fresh” food is an average of
9 days old at the “chain” stores? Me, too. Nobody wants to spend a fortune on food, but I’d rather
pay a little more to guarantee that what I’m eating is local, fresh, pesticide-free if possible, and, oh
yeah, that the farmer can afford to stay in business.

Lastly, the Co-op accepts EBT and WIC. I can pay with cash, a credit card or a check. As my
personal economy has varied through the years, that’s made a big difference to me. So it’s not
like a warehouse club, where you can’t enter without being a member, and where it’s only about
getting cut-rate prices. YFC is a cooperative business, non-profit, and all about Good Food. In Your

Lisa Bashert (Transition Town Ypsi)
Lisa lives and works in Ypsilanti where she is involved with all things sustainable. She is a co-
founder of Transition Town Ypsilanti, a garden steward with Growing Hope, a beekeeper and
marketing coordinator for the Ypsi Food Co-op, and runs the Local Honey Project. Her home
includes a root cellar, raised beds and edible landscaping, water collection systems, permaculture-
inspired urban farming, top-bar beehives, and much more.

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