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Manly Co-Op

20 February 2011 115,022 views One Comment

Manly Co-Op, full name, Manly Food Co-Operative, is a not for profit, community owned shop. Its ethos is healthy and environmentally friendly shopping and I reckon it’s very successful at what it does.

Tucked down Whistler Street in Manly the shop is organised warehouse style with bins, jars & bottles all around – the tea section especially looks like an old apothecary. Almost everything stocked and sold in the Co-Op is organic, chemical free, biodynamic. There’s also a very keen focus on local sourcing, ethical production and environmentally friendly shopping. Most of the goods are non-packaged: there are bins full of dried foods that you self-serve in the quantity you want. You’re encouraged to bring your own containers or you can buy the jars/ bags there. You weigh your container at the entrance, mark it up and the difference is calculated when you check out. Good eh.

Also on sale are dried herbs & spices, coffee, teas, sweet things, oils and honeys. The non-packaged goods also include laundry & personal washing soaps which I’m told are excellent. The fresh stuff comes in regularly: organic fruit & veggies twice a week, organic bread three times a week, organic dairy produce once a week, and homemade cakes & muffins variously. There’s a small amount of packaged organic goods: baked beans, soya milk, tomatoes etc.


I’ve only had the chance to sample a few bits & pieces so far, mostly muesli ingredients but also some homemade banana bread and peanut butter – more on that later. It’s all been really good and reasonably priced too. In fact, with my volunteer’s discount it’s cheaper than Coles. The outstanding item without a doubt is the homemade peanut butter, let’s talk about that…


The Co-Op is currently running ‘Nutty Sundays’: nuts have 20% discount but more interestingly they get the grinder out! I’m told it’s the same machine that would have ground mince. I don’t know much about that but I do know that you put a few handfuls of peanuts in and out comes 100% pure, chunky but spreadable, peanut butter – it’s awesome. It’s thick, sticks to the roof of your mouth, but with nothing else added it’s complete nutty goodness :) I gave some to my most sceptical, non-interested-in-organic-ethic-anything friends and they raved about it too.

how it works

Open 10-3, Tue-Sun, the shop is owned by its members and managed & run entirely by volunteers. Like any volunteer organisation the group comprises a small core of comitted older members, a decent body of quiet, dedicated rota-observers, and a large spread of dip-your-toe-in well intentioned participants. As a member ($5 share, plus $16 annual membership fee) and therefore shareholder, you receive information about the Co-Op, can take an active part in its management and you get 10% discount off all purchases. You can help out through marketing & website, finance & ordering, cleaning, stock taking, working in the shop, literally anything you can think of. For every hour that someone volunteers they earn an “energy point” and for every three energy points you can do a shop at 40% discount which is cost price. That’s a reasonable proposition isn’t it.

how volunteering works

Given the structure and the mixed bag of experience running the Co-Op it operates well. A combined result of good delegation, good organisation and from-the-heart willingness. On my first visit to the Co-Op Anthony, who was running the shop that day, kindly showed me around, explaining how things worked and how to get ther most from my visit. He was thorough and clearly passionate about the cause. I was hooked.
On my next visit I did an ‘unpackaged tour’ with Richard who coordinates the volunteers. I learnt more about why the Co-Op was set up, what they’re trying to achieve, where the food comes from and how the Co-Op is run.
And finally I started volunteering – my first stint, today, was a blistering morning. I learnt more ins-and-outs of the products in stock, refilling shelves, pricing, working the till, processing memberships and a dozen other on-the-job tasks. It’s an easy, relaxed, cosy job to do and as Colin (chair of the board and my first customer) said, “most of the people who come in here will know more than you so don’t worry.” Sweet.
Everyone I’ve met at the Co-Op has been kind and extremely helpful, they’re a charming crowd – you have to be careful not to overcommit any of your resources!

So that’s it – another impressive endeavour right on the doorstep. For now I’ll just be working in the shop, learning about how things work and improving my diet :) I’m looking forward to enjoying more of the food. But watch this space for – inevitably – more involvement. Oh, and come say hi…



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One Comment »

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