July 18, 2018 | ° F

The Vegan times

Nestled in the downtown section of New Brunswick, just off of Livingston Avenue, is a little known store that has been serving the community since 1973. With its modest dwelling at 89 Morris St., the George Street Co-op is a community owned and operated store that is highly committed to providing its customers with the highest quality of natural foods and the most sincere quantity of friendly nature.

Beginning in 1973, the Co-op (as it's known to its shoppers) began when ten members from the Vegetarian Club at Rutgers started a buying club, purchasing a storefront on George Street (where it gets its name) a year later. In 1988, in need of a store of their own due to expansion, the Co-op was moved to Morris Street, directly across from the New Brunswick library, where it resides today.

The Co-op, which is entirely vegetarian, serves a wide array of delicious foods that cater to all diets, from vegan to macrobiotic, and gets much of their produce, all of which is organic, from local farmers. Meanwhile, it serves as a sanctuary for all in the area concerned and committed in purchasing natural foods at a fair price.

Upon entering the Co-op, one is greeted with a cork board littered with flyers and postings about upcoming community events and natural, holistic practitioners in the immediate area. Next, you'll notice the soup station where fresh, hot soup, courtesy of Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen, is kept at all times. The store then opens up into a delightful array of delicious produce (all of which is organic), frozen foods, and grocery items, each carefully selected and reviewed by an ethics committee, which was formed to keep the highest quality of foods in the Co-op without compromising its vision.

The Co-op also specializes in vitamins and supplements, helping customers cure their ailments through natural, non-pharmaceutical, practices. Members and employees are always on hand to help customers with their questions, concentrating on the best, most natural way in preventing disease. Whether you're concerned with obtaining all of your necessary vitamins or looking to ward off the next cold or flu, the Co-op has what you need to stay healthy all year.

Just beyond the supplements, lies dozens of bulk items, most of which are organic and are cheaper than buying prepackaged products. Anything from oats to dried papaya can be found in their bulk aisle, which provides the shopper with a wide selection of dried fruits, pastas, and all sorts of chocolate-covered treats for those who still tend to pig out, even when in a health food store.

Finding assistance at the Co-op is an easy task. Being as that it's a member-run store, volunteers, in addition to their paid staff, work in the store at various hours, receiving a discount on all of the Co-op's products as an incentive. Though the store is open to everyone, only members receive discounts. The rules for member discounts are simple: Working in the store two hours a week gives that member a 20% discount on all products, whereas working two hours a month will earn the member an 8% discount. As there are some members who can't find the time to work in the store, or are simply unable, due to physical restrictions, there is non-working member discount of 1% once a $100 equity fee is paid. Though this might sound like a lot of money (especially to students), the fee is payable in installments and is fully returned when the membership is terminated. A waiver form is also available if the payment will be too much of a burden on your bank account.

Membership orientation meetings are held at least twice a month, and are required to be attended to become an official member. The precise times and dates can be found on the in-store calendar or by calling their office. At meetings, members are given a brief rundown of store operations and certain tasks that are available to do in order to gain a discount. Also discussed, are the origins of the Co-op, its ethics, and the benefits of becoming a member.

The Co-op is always anxious to recruit new members, especially those from the nearby Rutgers campuses. When in college, eating a healthy, responsible diet can become a very difficult task, especially if certain restrictions are involved. The Co-op welcomes all students to peruse the store, learn about its vision, and help support natural, sustainable living. Vegetarians, vegans, macrobiotics, or just people interested in what the Co-op is about, are all encouraged to come and be apart of the community and hospitality that are all found in New Brunswick's best kept secret.

Paolo Giampietro

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