Whenever I go anywhere new I always worry about how people are going to perceive me due to others’ expectations of what using a power wheelchair and having a somewhat significant speech impairment means about my intelligence. I don’t let my fears hold me back, but I am aware of the unpleasantness that might happen. Therefore, I entered the River Valley Market (RVM),a Northampton member-owned food co-op, in order to be a secret shopper and write this review feeling more than a little nervous.
The first thing I noticed was that although the store looked huge from the outside, it wasn’t packed with tons of items. They used that big space to have nice, wide aisles any wheelchair user will love. This doesn’t mean that RVM doesn’t have a lot of products to offer. It does. This is especially true if you have allergies like me. Many grocery stores look at me like I’m from Mars when I ask them to change plastic containers (which I’m allergic to) for paper ones. Not so at RVM. Better still, if you call ahead they might be able to make you a separate batch of whatever you want without whatever you’re allergic to. Try getting your average grocery store to do that! RVM also has tons of gluten free products.
I also enjoyed RVM’s one stop shopping status. If you need ready to eat food, they’ve got you covered. If you need vitamins, cards, yoga supplies, health and wellness books, left leaning magazines, CD’s, and even clothing they have that, too. If you need a last minute gift, you can pick one up while you are grabbing supper fixings.
One of things I really liked was that you don’t need to belong to RVM to shop there, as is true of many co-ops. However, if you do what to become a member, you’ll be able to take advantage of members only sales and discount days. You’ll also receive a member owner equity share which means you’ll get a share of the co-op’s yearly profits.
If you are low income, you only need to pay $75 of the standard $150 lifetime membership because The Low Income Membership Assistance Fund pays the rest. Low income members only need to pay $5/month to pay off their membership. Additionally, RVM doesn’t even bill you. They send you 14 coupons, after your $5 initial start up payment. Whenever, you have extra money, you hand or mail RVM a coupon along with your payment. Even while you’re paying, you’re still a co-op member with all the rights and privileges.
For a comparison, I decided to compare RVM roast beef with Stop and Shop roast beef. I had my personal care assistant give me small pieces of beef. I didn’t know which was which and after tasting didn’t have a favorite. RVM’s cost $2 more per pound. I’m comfortable paying that difference because I want to support local business and I know the animal I’m eating was probably treated better before I consumed it.
I loved most things about RVM from the staff to the allergy free products. I loved the fund that helps ensure low income people can access high quality food. I didn’t love the fact that RVM isn’t very close to any standard bus stop. I didn’t love the fact that I’ll pay $2 more per pound if I buy roast beef there. However, even the best things come with drawbacks.
This is member 5,598 signing off! I hope to see you at RVM soon.