Go slowly but surely, putting your foot down with each new step. The people of the Cooperative The female bear seems to be clear about it and this is surely one of the values behind the spectacular premiere of the cooperative supermarket on Avenida de Asturias (Tetuán). And of values, as we will explain, they are well equipped.
The Osa is a cooperative supermarket which has just opened at number 57 Avenida de Asturias. The premises have 400 square meters of commercial area and as many as warehouses, handling areas, refrigerators, etc. Almost nothing for a supermarket where those who buy and work are their own partners. They are the owners of their own supermarket and buy in it the products they select with an ethical horizon.
The project began about six years ago and has grown around the concept of healthy and sustainable food, with the involvement of the partners themselves from the prototype that was 2decological, in Noviciado street. The new supermarket is, in the words of Gaston (Cooperative member of the La Osa communication commission, with whom we have spoken) “a huge leap”. More than 1000 members –700 of them committed to going to work for free three hours a month at the supermarket– are their credentials. Despite this, they have only the basis: they need to double the number of partners, but it is foreseeable, in the light of other similar experiences, that the rate of association will accelerate now that the doors of La Osa have a lintel and people inside working, within sight of the neighborhood.
“Seeing it with the products already in place has been a bombshell for us. Already operational, with the shelves, the boxes, the products, being able to make the purchase… ”, says Gastón. The inauguration was on December 9. Gone are other stages, already completed: looking for a place with the appropriate dimensions – and verifying that it was impossible in the city center -, disembarking in Ventilla, negotiating with the IVIMA for rent, obtaining financing from ethical and social entities the works of the premises …
The Bear is the new incarnation of a international cooperative supermarket movement started by ancients hippies in Park Slope Food Coop (Brooklyn), although its most direct reference is La Louve, located in the heart of Paris, to those who have visited and from whom they have received good advice. They are also being born other similar projects in different parts of Spain and even in our city (as Supercoop, in Lavapiés).
The members of the cooperative have come from many parts of Madrid: seduced by the spirit of the project over time, they have become involved in it. Recently, they held open house days and quite a few neighbors signed up. It is a matter of time before many residents of La Ventilla and all of Tetuán participate in La Osa. “We already collaborate with The Huerta de Tetuán, for example ”, says our interlocutor.
And when the neighbors get closer, they will find a supermarket decorated with murals and slogans that underpin your ideas motor, not the promotion of consumption and profit at all costs. “The decoration has made it Fragile, an artist who has also been a cooperative member for a long time and a neighbor of the neighborhood ”.
The triad of concepts that moves the machinery of La Osa is good products, good prices and good people. That 100% of the slogan is fulfilled in each and every one of the products is a chimera, they explain from La Osa, but they try to get the inhabitants of their sections to get as close as possible to them with a continuous evaluation of suppliers and products. The commission in charge examines its environmental and social impact, its demand among partners… So that apples from a producer from the Lozoya valley and beer from a well-known brand coexist on the shelves. The shopping basket must be filled with an ethical and efficient horizon.
Each member of La Osa makes an initial contribution of 100 euros to the social capital of the cooperative – if you are not a cooperative member you cannot buy there – and agrees to do a three-hour work shift per month. Along with the volunteer cooperatives, there are founding directors and a coordinating group of six paid by the project, but cooperative hours are the lifeblood of cooperative supermarkets and what differentiates them from other consumer cooperatives.
Each work team chooses when it can go and is used in all the tasks that are done in any supermarket (restocking, charging, cleaning, opening or closing the store, etc.). “We are still adapting the rhythms and the methodologies, this is a process. Each team does the tasks in a different way and we have to reach a balance ”. The cooperative members also work in the project’s operating commissions (communication, governance, purchasing…).
If the maximum of good products It is guaranteed by the evaluation commission, shifts and commissions help to achieve those of good prices and they have a lot to do, too, with that of good people. “Because there is a feeling of participating in a consumer awareness movement,” Gastón explains with sincere enthusiasm. The collective and social approach of the project is fundamental, as well as the awareness of belonging to a team. Together we are more”.