OB People’s Food Co-op: Still Relevant Or Out of Touch? – Part 4

by on October 19, 2009 · 28 comments

in Economy, Health, Labor, Ocean Beach

peoples food storefront 72

People's Food Store - 1972

Originally posted October 12, 2009.

I volunteered to write this story after two other contributors (who are co-op members) to our community blog started out to write stories about the OB People’s Food Co-op during the past year and were so frustrated by the experience that they’ve given up rather than risk alienating themselves from an organization whose ideals they shared and whose role in the larger scope of things they valued. As one would-be author put it, in an email exchange with the Co-op:

I am a proponent of the co-op. I honestly feel uncomfortable doing my shopping there this week, like I am going to give my member number and be denied. Is that how every vocal member-owner should feel just for voicing opinions?

I sensed a certain reluctance in my own dealings with the Co-op. An emailed request for a tour and interview sent on September 9th was answered with the stipulation that they’d like the questions posed during the interview in advance. Eventually, I talked with Board member Jim Bell on September 23rd. Bell knew lots of things about the construction of the building and did give me a great tour of the facility. I just got the feeling that they were leery of dealing with the OB Rag. Why else would I be sent to interview somebody with a very limited knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the organization? Were they hiding something? Has the OB Rag stepped on that many toes around town?

Peoples Coop 003-ed-sm

People's Food Co-op, 2009

Or was it a fear of any public discussion about the Co-op? It was obvious from reading the email correspondence that previous writers handed over to me that they were very defensive about a few (less than five) comments that had appeared on the blog. As one commenter (with obvious ties to Co-op) put it:

I get why no one would want to be the subject of this journalism- it just opens them up to endless trash talk, much of it uninformed and baseless.

Are we really to believe that because the Co-op started out with a righteous mission, that years later in the middle of a war and a recession, in an economy that marginalizes poor people, and a labor market that does the same, this organization still is true to that mission without any bending or swaying and without any special interest? Or is it the right thing to do to ask them simply: are you? How’s it going? Because isn’t money pretty sexy and alluring and complicated and tangled, even if you’ve got ‘People’s’ in your title? If liberal, foodie, progressive, organic, locavore businesses are not held to the standards of reflexivity they are holding the rest of the world to, then there’s something wrong.


I think a dangerous place a good-hearted-good-politicked-well-educated-well-read-well-fed person can go…is one of self satisfaction. Celebrating olive oil tasting or home made tofu will not redistribute wealth or power.

Is the Co-op ultimately a political retreat dressed up in the language of sustainability, organics and locavorism? While each of these goals is important, it strikes this writer that much of the foodie movement is about the intrinsic value of “me”. Making conscious choices is not a substitute for fighting for social justice. And I’m afraid that, for too many of these folks, it’s really only about tonight’s menu.

While the Co-op’s Newsletter gives lip service to other causes, like opposing nuclear power and supporting laws regarding labeling of genetically modified foods, there’s a fundamental disconnect when it comes to the realization that food chain and environmental issues are part of a bigger picture. With its influence, financial success, co-operative business model and connectivity to over 11,000 members, it just seems to me that there ought to be an issue of two, say, the homeless, where the People’s Co-op could be doing something more.


It functions instead as a lifestyle Prozac that celebrates consumerism, encourages elitism and divorces its devotees from the everyday struggles of working Americans to simply feed their families. Steaming organic veggies will do nothing towards bringing economic and social justice to the hills of Afghanistan or even the homeless of Ocean Beach.

The ruthlessness of modern food production is symptomatic of the brutality of the corporate state we find ourselves living in. While being aware of how we manage the food in our lives and the negative impact that making bad choices in this arena will have on our planet and our health, it can not and should not be divorced from the larger struggles that we face in this world. And, if the Co-op cannot bring itself to connect with this larger world, maybe they ought to change their name.

fist - politicalactivism

The OB Rag would like to invite the People’s Co-op to respond to the opinions expressed here: we’ll be glad to give you equal time.

See the other articles in this series:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

lane tobias October 12, 2009 at 9:50 am

Your honesty has rung true throughout all 4 parts, Doug. Nobody can say you didn’t present multiple angles here….and I think its important thay you pointed out that making good food decisions does not equate to social justice and the greater good. In many ways, all-volunteer, anarchist style organizations like Food Not Bombs are doing more than People’s in that they are feeding the hungry while also asserting a healthy, vegetarian lifestyle.

One thing I remember from a past post is that People’s gives a 10% discount to anyone using EBT. I wonder if thats actually a 10% discount, or they just waive the non-member fee? If that’s true, that is certainly an honorable policy.


Dave Gilbert October 21, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I’m right there with Lane, Doug. Great work, and for the record…I’m still not a member! ;)


OB Joe October 12, 2009 at 9:58 am

I certainly hope that Peoples Food employees and managers will respond. And I hope – I’m sure you will – that the OB Rag will give them space to do it in. The rest of the community is looking forward to this debate. We cannot all go to People’s Board meetings or slosh through bureaucratic layers to get our points across to the store’s management.

Please – and I address People’s workers and managers: see this debate as something worthy of your time and effort. I don’t get the sense that this blog or the author or other commenters to other parts of this series are trying to tear down the store. I think we’d just like to see some dialogue and not feel like we’re pulling teeth to get you to acknowledge that not everyone is satisfied with the direction the store has taken over these 27 years.


GJ October 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I like the OB Proples Food Store just the way it is.


lane tobias October 12, 2009 at 4:42 pm

in addition to the comment I made above, I wonder if People’s accepts WIC vouchers? Considering theres a WIC office on Sunset Cliffs Blvd, it would make for a really great resource for recipients of WIC to buy what is definitely the best produce in the area….especially since as of 10/1, WIC has amended its package to be more healthy, lower in fat and dairy, and includes whole grains and tofu.

Above all, this program is primarily for low and middle income working families – a very large segment of OB’s population.


bodysurferbob October 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

from what i gather, you’re a brave man, charlie br… er, doug porter. as you report, 2 of your predecessors on this subject fell to the wayside due to the withering storm of negativity exhibited by store staff.

sometimes i wish i didn’t even have to take off my wetsuit to come ashore and straighten things out for you landlubbers. get it together or i’ll have to smack you with my wet fin – only metaphorically of course.

perhaps store staff feel they only have to answer to the members, who are represented by people on their board, who meet monthly and straighten out all the problems that they can see.

but part of your point, mr porter, is that you feel peoples store is not doing enuff for the community, with all the members, capital, and access to resources (the newsletter, the 11,000 members, $1M in sales monthly, largest employer in OB, etc).

despite the fact that many good people work there, the store has possibly drifted from its original purpose, you say. this is a good point, that deserves to be discussed by the community, and not just at store monthly meetings.

i’m going back in, it’s only 65.


Brie October 12, 2009 at 9:43 pm

As much as I want to believe in the idea of a co-op, from the financial perspective of a single mother with extremely limited disposable income, it makes no sense for me to shop in a place where mainstream organic and eco-friendly products — such as Earth’s Best baby food and Seventh Generation diapers — on average cost nearly 30 to 40 cents more than those offered in corporate venues like Target. If I knew that profit would directly benefit my community, and I saw those improvements, chances are I would have renewed my membership a long time ago despite the price disparities.


Molly October 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

Doug – I think you have to run for People’s Board of Directors in order to be heard at People’s.


MW October 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm

The first time I went into People’s I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t a member and didn’t want to feel humiliated by not being one. But when I came through the line the cashier was a really sweet young woman and let me know about the membership without being pushy at all.

I paid for my groceries with an EBT card (food stamps) and the cashier let me know that People’s offers sponsored memberships so I filled out a short form and now have a membership. I not only receive member prices, but I get an additional 10% off my groceries when using an EBT card.

As for expensive prices, I can spend $20 in the bulk and produce section of the store and have dinner covered for a week. There are certain ‘Best Buy’ items throughout the store that neither members, seniors, nor government assisted members get any discount on, but you can ask any cashier and they will give you a typed-up list of these items. It’s because these items are not marked up at all, so they can’t give any further discount on them.

Aside from a few cashiers with bad attitudes I’ve had nothing but good experiences at People’s. I’ve never been to a board meeting because I work and have a family, but I feel taken care of by the board members I’ve voted for, and feel that they’re doing all they can to reach out the low-income population of our community.


Kathleen Denton October 14, 2009 at 8:28 am

When I first started working with “Peoples” in the late 60’s or early 70’s, it was a way to get things cheaper by chipping in with my labor.


Danny Morales October 14, 2009 at 8:50 am

The original founders tried to organize People’s as a workers co-op but found that to be impossible given the lack of class consciousness amongst the employees (second hand knowledge that). They organized a consumer co-op instead and joined a cooperative of other consumer co-ops with the result being a socio-political orientation towards the free market. Can’t blame the current management for adapting their business model to survive in the capitalist system. I’m not addicted to my membership no more than I am to my union card. Being an organized worker has more satifaction than being an organized consumer though…don’t you agree?


Former OB Doug October 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I can tell that the author is not informed as to what a Co-op is or what a local economy is. If this is journalism, maybe you should check available resources before you spout an uninformed opinion. A Co-op is formed to fulfill the needs of it’s members. Reading the Mission and Vision statements of the Co-op, found in it’s Bylaws, you’ll see that the Co-op is fulfilling it’s mission. I don’t know where fighting nuclear power or opposing wars is in those statements. It supports things that in the food industry may oppose those items which is its goal. If you want to support local economy during a time of recession, it seems strange that you lash out against the Co-op. Every dollar there is reciprocated locally between 3 and 7 times depending upon which multiplier effect theory you wish to follow. Being the largest employer and largest employer of OB citizens just makes them evil as well. Forgive them for not hiring from outside and seeing OB dollars leave OB.

I would like to know what the author is doing to solve homelessness, nuclear production, the recession, improving the community, or anything else other than offering hate. I have seen the author want to capitalize on one’s misfortune (say the Abbott St. fire which I personally you know you wanted to expose) but never offer anything tangibly constructive. It’s easy to cast blame on those trying to change the system but it’s harder to try to change the system. Understand what you write about and what you wish for, which sounds like a workers collective which People’s once was, and be responsible.

Co-ops are a way to to fight against “the man” — even when “the man” now appears to be the fourth estate. If you wish to change the way the Co-op sees its vision, become a member, join the BOD, join a committee, or just be more than an outsider. Of course, as a true journalist you want to claim any association with an organization, a political party, or have any other affiliation that may affect your judgment. It’s easier to mock and hate than to actually participate in a healthy manner.

Maybe the “fathers” of the OB Rag should still be in OB and be a part of the community rather than living on the outside and supporting this crappy idea of journalism hidden in the idea of opinion. My opinion of Doug Porter and the OB Rag have fallen greatly. I’d like to know where people like Frank Gormlie and Doug Porter were when the OB Rag published a few issues several years ago. Were their egos not up to the challenge or could they not stand to see real journalism being done???


annagrace October 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Former OB Doug- I’m puzzled by what comes across as your personal issues with Doug Porter and Frank Gormlie, offered up in such harsh terms… it’s confusing what you’re hanging out here. Did you work on the OB Rag or at People’s?

There is something venomous that undermines the cogency of whatever arguments you wished to present on the topic. That makes it very difficult to respond.

Doug’s four part series was solid journalism and I’m not sure exactly what set you off. It reflects well on People’s that they are seen as such a long standing, significant part of the OB Community and worthy of such an in-depth analysis. They are not just any co-op. They are People’s. They are OB. Doug gave a number of reasons why it benefits us and OB to support them.

Are you really making a pitch for “geographical purity?” C’mon “Former” OB Doug. That sounds pretty silly…. You know OB is a state of mind. And those of us who share that state of mind do feel responsible for ending wars, formulating sound health care policies, repealing don’t ask don’t tell, and reducing our carbon footprint, to name just a few things. Journalists, our OBRag journalists and contributors, care about those things, write about those things and work toward those kinds of things.

I’d say that’s healthy participation, to use your words.


Michelle October 22, 2009 at 11:00 am

To have elicited such an aggressive response, Doug Porter’s piece must have really touched a nerve, huh?


Shawn Conrad October 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I hate to agree here, but I do.

It should be called the Lemon Grove Rag, and is a place of copy / paste journalism.

All Doug’s stories are akin to “I didn’t like the potato salad, then I went home”.


doug porter October 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Dear “Former OB Doug”

Did you happen to notice that the article you commented on had “Part 4” in the headline?
I don’t think so.

That’s right, there were three parts published before the one part that you read and got angry about. I’ll recap what the first three parts covered, which should prove to be a worthy response to much of what you had to say:

In Part One:

I covered the early years of the OB People’s Co-op and the history of cooperatives going back to 1844. I explained that the four basic elements all cooperative have in common are:

• Co-ops are owned and governed by their primary users (the member-owners).
• Co-ops are democratically governed (one-member, one-vote).
• Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations.
• Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.

I also pointed out that food coops are a primary force behind creating food chains that stand for conscious and sustainable consumption.

I concluded by explaining to our readers about the greeness of the construction of the current facility.

I invited the readers and the co-op to comment and to ask questions that would be answered in future articles.

57 comments appeared. Based on what I saw there, I expanded the series from two to four parts.

In Part Two:

I addressed the oft-heard complaint that the co-op was too expensive. I created a shopping list, priced it out at the Co-op and then went to four other stores to shop for comparable products. Here are the results:

• OB Peoples $52.24
• Apple Tree $55.48
• Stumps $57.13
• Whole Foods $56.31
• Trader Joe’s $48.90

I also printed a price comparison (verbatim) that appeared in the Co-op Newsletter.

Yup, as you stated, that’s really “mocking and hateful stuff”.

In Part Three:
I explained how the overall system of food processing and distribution works: how a steak that sells at a big box store for $5.98 a pound actually costs $815 a pound after you get through adding up all the corporate welfare and costs to society and the environment.

I concluded that part by stating:

The social and environmental costs of products sold at the Co-op are considered before they are offered for sale.

By joining forces with other co-operatives around the country, the OB People’s Co-op is able to use their joint buying power to stimulate demand for products that are socially conscious. Food co-operatives are a fast growing segment of the economy, as more people are becoming aware of the true costs of buying food. Nationally, consumer grocery cooperatives account for close to $2.1 billion in sales revenue and over $252 million in wages and benefits paid. By buying produce locally—a stated goal—they are able to lessen their (and our) carbon footprint in the food distribution chain which gains significance when you consider that, on average, conventional fruits and vegetables produced in the US travel about 1,500 miles before reaching the point of sale.

Finally, there is the impact that buying at a locally owned store has on our immediate community. More money stays in the community. For every dollar spent at the co-op, 45 cents remains in the community. Every dollar you spend at a chain store only returns 15 cents to the community.

In Part 4….well, you read it and went ballistic. That’s your right, I suppose.

It was also my right (and this is a blog, not a newspaper, so everything we do is opinionated) to question whether the co-op was able to see that our problems with the “man” aren’t going to be solved simply by buying organic and such. The “man” has put “organic” stuff in the mega stores and will co-opt any alternatives that we posit to protect his corporate fascism. And that is my point: for the co-op to survive as a “People’s institution” it must play a role that cannot be co-opted, and that means seeing the bigger picture.

Finally, a couple of things that you mentioned just don’t make sense and I want to address them:

You mentioned a fire at a house on Abbott Street. I never wrote anything about that event & know nothing about the house, the fire or the people that lived there. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. (Yes, I saw the story that appeared here.)

As to you your comment about where I’ve been over the years, I’ve been pretty open about all that. You can read through my archives here by clicking on my name in the author’s box, located on the right hand side of the front page.

Best Wishes,

Doug Porter


Barbara October 22, 2009 at 11:39 am

This issue of personalizing attacks because of an individual’s perspective only serves to block honest discourse. Is that not against all that we of a liberated mindset stand for. When defensiveness enters into response it sullies the goals of refining our society to achieving the best ‘for all’ of us. The O.B Rag brings us (all of us and not just Obceans) a refreshing change from lies and propaganda of mainstream news. It gives us provacative information to process. It does not ever suggest we must swallow every morsel without question. This is my opinion of good journalism.


lane tobias October 22, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I find it interesting that a factual series of articles could be attacked in that way as well. If anything, this post asked for dialogue rather than a closed minded response. Over the course of Doug’s series, almost every complaint about People’s by community members, including myself, was proven wrong. If anything, I can say this series makes ALL co-ops, not just People’s, more attractive to the average consumer.

The truth is, Former OB Doug is ignoring the positive impact of a local media outlet reporting on virtually every aspect of our community. Mainstream media local news outlets won’t touch the stuff we do; the topic is either too small, too political, TOO LOCAL to be covered by outlets like SDNN, the UT, and for some things, even the Reader and CityBeat. Who else would report on a fire on Lotus Street – and get high quality pictures from a local photographer taboot? There was no criticism or opinion elicited in that post – it was a short report of an event that affected a local resident or two. What is so bad about that? Looking at our posts recently, the OB Rag is reporting directly and serving this community better and in a more personal way than any other media outlet: Updates on OB business openings and closings, an OB bar review, discussions on the merits of our local street fests, a local forum for people to discuss possible police brutality at the farmers market, taking on ADVERTISEMENTS from local businesses…..if that doesn’t represent quality alternative journalism to you, then you have been sucked up into the vacuum that CNN and Fox News have created. What is journalism? Where in history has there ever been an implication that there is in fact no opinion inserted into news? As barbara points out above, the OB Rag never suggests we take every piece of information as absolute. That is one of the reasons the comments section is so important – it adds to the story and helps the article evolve as the OPINION of readers is added to the equation.

Personal attacks only get published on this blog because of the open nature of the comments section. But its clear that the personal attacks on Frank and Doug are baseless and spoken out of tunnel vision. Nobody has done more to give OB’s activists and locally oriented folks a voice and a forum to discuss things important to them than Frank and Doug. Why attack Frank when he had nothing to do with the article? Attacking Doug does no good either, and there are two reasons: 1) Doug’s series gave a factual account of why it is important to shop at a co-op, and made it more attractive in laymans terms than any literature I’ve ever seen at People’s (or any other Co-op for that matter); 2) By lashing out at the author you are buying right into this statement Doug makes rather than refuting it:

“If liberal, foodie, progressive, organic, locavore businesses are not held to the standards of reflexivity they are holding the rest of the world to, then there’s something wrong”.

There are plenty of things wrong with journalism in general, but in this case, I thought Doug went to great lengths to be fair and balanced.


Mary October 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Wow, this got pretty personal pretty fast.

The article’s by Doug were well-written, and did a good job highlighting some good and bad things about the co-op. The bigger companies become, the more complex the moral structure. Money makes everything more complicated, and I think Doug did a great job pointing that out.

However, I am slightly taken aback by the declaration in this article: “Making conscious choices is not a substitute for fighting for social justice.”

Of course it isn’t, and I don’t think anyone is arguing that it is. They are two very separate things, and People’s, as far as I know, doesn’t claim to be an activist establishment. It’s just a place to buy organic food, a store that I can feel comfortable buying whatever I need without scrutinizing the label.

Social justice is important, but perhaps in another realm than People’s. If we are all so concerned with social justice, perhaps we should look away from the organic grocery store that definitely serves a need, and look toward the community’s lack of food banks or soup kitchens.


yippiereborn October 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Hello Mary – you make a good point about when social justice should go hand in hand with a cause, in this case ending the crippling effect of commercialized agribusiness on our food industry by supporting local co-ops.

I do wonder then where People’s hiring the Washington lobbying firm Bates and Byrne (at $1,000 dollars a month, approved in May and listed in the commitee notes in May’s Co-op newsletter) to lobby for proposed legislation for “Truth in labelling” of genetically modified foods, falls on the spectrum of social justice and activism. There is no doubt that this issue is important and in line with the co-op’s values. I do think some members would be concerned that the co-op is dropping all kinds of money on it though – especially considering the co-op itself doesnt carry Genetically modified products…. (The BOD also approved $2500 dollars to send people’s general manager to a convention to gain support for the “Truth in Labelling Coalition” in July).

Herein lies the problem: Maybe its not the co-op’s place to be involved in ending nuclear proliferation or solve homelessness….but if over $10,000 dollars of the budget, which is presumably not that much in the grand scheme of the co-op’s financials, is going to a lobbying firm and to send one person to a summit to gain support for the cause – doesn’t that mean its not ending up back in the community? Could that 10 or 11 K be put to better use on a local scale, say, to subsidize food for very low income or homeless folks that live in the area? And isnt paying a lobbying firm to push through legislation akin to the same tactics that commercialized agribusiness uses to get the massive subsidies that have monopolized the food industry in the first place?

I wonder what other people think. All this information is available in the co-op newsletters, and so it is certainly not a secret. But I wonder how many co-op members actually know its going on….


Kathleen Denton October 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm

When I first became involved with peoples food, in the late 60’s, it was a way to save money, to bypass the big “for profits”, and to work together.


Frank Gormlie October 24, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Kathleen – did you have other hippie names?


Kathleen Denton October 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Hey, Frank,
I was never a “hippie”, or whatever other tag the corporate media decided to assign to us. I was just a young person alive at that particular place in time. I was Kathy, living on Lotus, in OB.
Best of all possible Bests,


BC October 26, 2009 at 11:54 am

If genetically engineered food continues to proliferate, it will bring an end to the business of certified organic food. Think cross contamination. Since the co-op is in the business of selling organic foods, it behooves the co-op to protect organic foods. Simple. Lobbying is the way forward with this issue.

I spoke with Amber at the co-op and she tells me that two people from the rag have emailed her asking for an interview: Doug and Lane. Doug reports that he is the third person to take on the interview. Someone is not being forthright here.

Doug appears to have issues that Amber asked for interview questions in advance (my guess is that she requested, not “stipulated” as Doug reports). This makes sense if she wanted to be prepared and needed to know whether to involve anyone from the co0p besides herself in the interview. As a past reporter for a local paper in the mid west, my experience is that requests for questions prior to an interview are not deemed out of line. That this may in fact be helpful for both parties involved.

I was also made aware of an email that Frank passed around criticizing the co-op’s general manager for not responding to the rag’s request for an interview. I asked Amber about this and she told me that she sent him all of Doug’s emails (as well as past emails from Lane) and in none of them was the general manager asked to participate directly. Frank did not respond to Amber’s email.

I also read a brief response from Amber in part one of Doug’s series regarding the cost of food. Her response seemed informative and benign, yet Lane ripped into her like she was the evil doer of all San Diego. When another person wrote in responding to Lane, his response was something about being young, angry and knowing he was right. (Forgive me if i have the order of that sentence out of sequence)

It is no wonder that the co-op has stopped responding in this discussion. You have misrepresented them (aka lied) more than once.
Honesty? I’m not sure the rag knows what that word means anymore.


Frank Gormlie October 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

BC – Not certain where to start, as your last accusation is fairly substantial – that the Rag lied about what Peoples said. Before I continue, I have to ask: did you read any (or all) of Doug Porter’s 4 part series? The reason I ask is because nothing in your long rant seems to reflect that you read any of it, as your comment is mainly based on a series of emails between Amber, Doug and supposedly me, and not the substance of what Doug spent hours of research on, including a long interview of Jim Bell – who lacked knowledge of the day-to-day operation of the store, and included a tour of the building, a series of price-research efforts aka comparative shopping, and finally an indepth look at the history, philosophy of the store. Doug did send Amber a long list of areas he wanted to cover. So, that is not an issue.

Okay, the missing “third person” – we had 3 people from our staff begin efforts to contact and write about the store. After hitting walls, 2 bowed out. Doug took it up. This was an internal process. I cannot see how you can dispute that. Just because Amber doesn’t have emails from all 3, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

I did receive the email history that Amber sent. Doug asked to interview someone with knowledge of daily operations, plus other stuff. He was asked to send in questions – which as I said, he did – in the form of areas to cover. I don’t think Amber is disputing that. There was no reason for me to respond to Amber. Then well into the process, Doug was notified by Amber that he would have to interview Jim Bell, a member of the Board and the guy who designed the building. Doug did meet with Jim, did the interview, had the tour. I hope Amber is not disputing that. (And why does Amber have to be the go-between here?)

Doug found Jim Bell – who is a personal friend of mine from the seventies and eighties – quite knowledgeable about the building, but forgetful about the store’s history, and not knowledgeable about the daily operations. We all know that Nancy Casady has given interviews to the Union-Tribune before, so why we weren’t allowed to interview her was beyond us – thus my effort to ask for help from a community of people I contacted via email to see if anyone knew or understood why we weren’t being able to talk to the general manager.

So up to this point, there is no misrepresentation on our part about the store or what Amber said or did. Then there’s the thing about Lane responding. So what? Isn’t he allowed his opinion? He was not the author of the post. So, I say, so what?

So there is nothing else – yet you accuse us of lying – of lacking honesty. Where you get off accusing our website of lying about the store – more than once – I don’t know. But it is not very principled. It is obvious that communications between our two projects has broken down. Amber just today asked to have the store’s newsletter editor taken off our listserve. We are the major website for the community that the store purports owns the store.

To date, we have not had one response from store management. We did receive one long response from Doug Zilm, who does not even work at the store now, who – instead of responding to our issues, attacked our blog and me and Doug Porter personally. Again, not very principled.

We always contend that a story on our blog/website is not complete without the comments. That’s one thing that makes us different from the mainstream journalists that Doug Zilm holds in high esteem, for some reason.

We have not misrepresented the store. And now you misrepresent us. Let’s push this aside, and get to the issues, the issues that Doug Porter raised, the issues that no one from the store has responded to yet.


Kim October 29, 2009 at 2:54 pm

The ever occurring change is apparent in every aspect of life and in every location. OB People’s has changed over the years, just as the OB People’s Rag and the OB Planning Board and so on and so on……
And, of course, not all that changes is agreeable to everyone. However, as a Community Member of Ocean Beach I feel very fortunate, completely spoiled even, due to the existence of OB People’s. The luxury that I have fresh organic produce available, fair trade products available, non-GMO products available, etc…. right here in the Community and the fact that I can rely on OB People’s to do the research to ensure that the products they offer meet these types of standards – Wow!

Outside of the great service provided to me as an individual, the Community of Ocean Beach as a whole benefits from the positive presence of OB People’s. They provide a Community Room as a meeting space free of charge which is always hosting free workshops and the like, they provide donations for the Ocean Beach Elementary School and other programs that benefit the youth, they provide donations for Community-oriented events, they provide sponsored memberships for low-income families, they provide senior citizen discounts, they host a warm clothing/blankets drive for the homeless, they provide local employment for Ocean Beach Community Members and provide good wages, good benefits, and good exposure to the cooperative work environment.

OB People’s also helps build a sense of community within Ocean Beach. They host free art shows and free local music events, they organize an annual craft fair for local artisans, they host a Halloween event and a summer picnic and a breakfast meeting. They publish a monthly newsletter that educates and promotes healthy lifestyles for both the individual and the environment. The newsletter also offers a location for the Community to communicate upcoming events, available services, etc…

On a National basis, OB People’s is held in high esteem due to the sustainable green building practices, their unique meat-free environment, their cooperative business practices, their dedication to not selling mainstream corporate products such as Coca Cola, Nabisco, etc…. as many other similar establishments do across the nation. I am proud to be part of OB People’s for so many reasons.

I came across an older issue of the OB PEOPLE’S RAG, Volume III Number I Early September 1972 which included an article regarding OB People’s which at that time had experienced that ever occurring change factor and read the following two items I would like to note:

1. “The original food co-op had emphasized 5 basic principles,, which were:
a. Break down the alienation that exists in our Community.
b. Do away with hierarchy.
c. Operate on non-profit basis.
d. Give the small farmer & gardeners a chance to sell their produce.
e. Try to offer organically grown food at the lowest prices possible.”
I was glad to see that OB People’s, after thirty-seven years of ever occurring change, still hold true to these 5 basic principles! They promote a sense of Community, they work in the cooperative business structure, not one member of the cooperative – employee, customer, board member – is raking in the dough, they sell and promote local, and they really do offer the best at the lowest prices possible! Hooray!

2. “The OB PEOPLE’S RAG backs the new OB People’s Food Store 100% because we see it as another alternative to this dying system that we’re all presently living under and we see it as something that places people and their welfare above material objects or money.”
The OB People’s Food Store still continues to place people and their welfare above material objects or money. No doubt! If you disagree then you really need to get more involved with OB People’s because you are missing out!


Frank Gormlie October 29, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Kim, really appreciate your thoughts here. Thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences of People’s community.

That same article that you quote from – which is included in our most recent post about the early seventies in OB – also included this:

“Soon the OB Store, if every thing goes well, will be able to drop down to 15% or even 10% mark up. The store wants to charge just enough to support three or four full time people, who get just enough to eat and a place to live.”

Talk about changes ….

The Rag, in these series of articles about People’s, extolled the store immeasurably. The articles also raised a few other issues, which by the comments, are issues shared by at least some other OBceans who do not feel part of People’s community.

For awhile, comments, pro and con, were flying by, and some of it got nasty. It seems that because the Rag or others did not bring their/our concerns to People’s board meetings, there has been a certain defensiveness shown by staff and friends of the store. Our blog has been attacked. Doug and I have been personally attacked. I probably have now lost 3 friends through this debacle. Yet, in all of this, we still have not had one response from the store’s management. Which is why I really appreciate your comments.

I would like to have a meeting with people from the store and clear the deck. Get rid of the negativity. Raise our concerns and discuss them without having my / our loyalty to OB questioned or our grassroots citizen journalism insulted by saying we have lied about the store.

Perhaps you can be part of that process, Kim. I look forward to any more of your ideas.


Kim McGinley October 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Hi Frank,
I can’t answer for anyone, I represent no one by meself! :-)
I am very satisfied and appreciative of the presence OB People’s has in the Community of Ocean Beach. They contribute greatly in many ways without tooting their own horn about it. I can respect that.
From experience I can directly relate to being publicly criticized and put-down when all my energy, resources, and intentions are put forth unselfishly without negative connotation for the purpose of being positive and contributing for the benefit of others and the benefit of the Community. Certainly doesn’t leave anyone feeling great.
C’est la vie.


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