Hyde Parkers moved closer to adding the Co-Op store on 55th to the long list of shuttered and abandoned buildings in Hyde Park. Ignoring recommendations that the Co-Op accept a generous bail-out proposal in exchange for a replacement with an actual grocery store, Co-Op members shouted "Save the Co-Op" at a meeting last Sunday.
Boldly defying market forces and dry balance sheet statistics, many attending held out the panacea of bankruptcy as a way to save one of the oldest neighborhood Establishment institutions. These members were exhorted by two maverick Board members who were seen to be holding well-thumbed copies of The Rochdale Principles.
"Bankruptcy is a way to turn the rules of the Capitalists against them," commented member Ned I.M. B. Young, 99. "If the Co-Op files for bankruptcy, they can simply walk away from the 47 Street store lease." A Herald reporter reminded Mr. Young that Certified Grocers is both the Co-Op's landlord on 47th street and supplier for 55th. "Details, details, the people have spoken -- these suppliers will just have to give us free groceries until we get back on our feet."
Others at the meeting excoriated the Co-Op's landlord, the University of Chicago. "As rich as these people are, they can certainly afford to extend us another few millions to let the Co-Op continue to provide us with poor service, high prices and low quality produce," said local writer Curtis B. Misguided. "You need to suffer in order to be truly creative. The long Chicago winters, coupled with the Co-Op, have helped many of us do our best work."
Still others emphasized the preservation motive in taking the bankruptcy route. Freeze! Illinois chair, Daniel Buttress, explained that "we want to preserve buildings in the amber of the Hyde Park backwater. We have been very encouraged that Alderman Hairston has turned down proposals to replace Doctor's Hospital with a hotel. We have St. Stephen's, Doctor's Hospital, and the crumbling Point revetment on our list of historically significant, abandoned structures. If the Co-Op takes the bankruptcy route, it will be shuttered within a few months and we can add it to our list."
When asked why the Co-Op structure deserves the attention of preservationists, Mr. Buttress replied, "well, it is true that Co-Op was very badly rehabbed in 1999. But if we don't abandon poor architecture today, we will have nothing to preserve tomorrow!"
Some at the meeting noted that the "Save the Co-Op" campaign could be a boon to local environmentalists and recyclers. "We can recycle the rhetoric of the unsuccessful 'Save the Point' campaign for use here," according to Save the Point task force spokesman, Don Sheepish. "Even the 'Save the Point' bumperstickers can be reused by covering 'Point' with 'Co-Op.'We are going to use minimum wage dishwashers from the Cosimo's to help out with this task."
Whatever the outcome, many in the community welcome a rebirth of the unrealistic expectations, empty rhetoric, and financial irresponsibility that our community was once famous for. A group of members is preparing to chain themselves to Co-Op shopping carts, if the Co-Op turns over operations to another retailer.
Happy Thanksgiving from HPP!!