If you visit a big city in Europe, you notice two things right away: you walk to most of your destinations, and there are storefront shops everywhere. For instance, within a stone's throw from an apartment my family and I rented in Rome, we were able to shop at a cheese and milk shop, two bakeries, a butcher, and a produce store. (A longer walk away, there was a supermarket smaller than Village Foods.) In short, no matter what Treasure Island says about being "America's most European Supermarket" (a slogan I dislike, primarily because a good store doesn't need a slogan...remember when the Co-Op was "Dedicated to Outrageous Service"?), the real European model is urban density coupled with a myriad of small shops.
Open Produce, 1635 East 55th Street, seems to follow that European model. It only lacks the company of the butcher (which, coincidentally, used to be across the street in the Manus Dental location more than a decade ago), the baker, and the cheese shop. And of course, as we all know, Hyde Park has spotty urban density.
There's a good variety of items in the store, with most of the standard fruits and vegetables you'd want (I missed seeing a few green veggies that are staples for my family: broccoli, snap peas, and green beans), and most are in respectable shape. There's an interesting selection of South Asian and East Asian dry goods, some canned goods, spices, and a refrigerator and freezer case with milk, juices, yogurts, and pre-prepared vegan and vegetarian foods. If you're like me and you eat tons of produce -- and frequently run out of tons of produce -- and if you live nearby, you could easily pop in on the way home from work or school.
blog, you'll find frank discussions of money there. For instance, for October and November, they do a back-of-the-envelope calculation that shows their monthly "surplus" (not strictly the correct term in an accounting sense, but that's OK) was only $900 per month. Given spoilage and unexpected expenses (the latest are truck repairs), no one is taking home a salary yet. Still, Andrew says optimistically that the store is "20% of awesome." I'm still not sure what that means, but it's charming.
Finally, the hours of operation are purposely tailored to students: it's open from 11 AM to 11 PM every day, which might make it the most happenin' place this side of Dunkin' Donuts.