It’s entirely possible to appreciate the ideals of a community group that strives for local empowerment and acts in tireless opposition to a monolithic corporate-industrial complex, while at the same time loathing the self-serious, death-by-committee culture that permeates such an undertaking (hey, I grew up as a Canadian Unitarian in mixed-income housing, so I understand what it is to be smothered by consensus-driven projects).
Such is my relationship with the Park Slope Food Coop, which this Brooklyn Paper article fawningly describes as “a spiritual center of Park Slope.” Look, I get how important it is that they exist, but I feel sometimes like they do, too (seriously, every time I drive by, the place looks like some tightly secured embassy in a hostile country). So it was from this childish, scorn-driven perspective that my initial reaction to their claim that Barneys “Co-op” threatens their brand was, “What a bunch of smug, pompous, litigious dicks.” Upon further reading, however, I guess I have to side with the smug, litigious dicks. Damn it.
Coop manager Joe Holtz claims that Barneys use of the term co-op “undermines our business model and, for lack of a better concept, ‘brand.’” At first this claim seems ridiculous, insofar as one company is a high-end department store outlet and the other is a local food coop. But wait. Turns out there’s some pretty specific legal language surrounding the term “coop,” and who exactly can use it. As an unnamed legal mind in the B.P. article says:
[The law] is there so that a co-op corporation — such as the food co-op — not be confused with other corporations such as business corporations. [The food co-op] is a different type of corporation and that’s the reason for the prohibition. […] Only a food co-op could bring this case. There might not have been anyone who objected before.
So, dear smug, egalitarian, self-satisfied Park Slope Food Coop, forgive me for being such a dick, and I hope you give Barney’s Co-op a real hard time.