Ah, the co-op wars. Is the cash register a tool of imperialism? Is selling sugar about the same as, or worse than, peddling heroin? Questions that had the city in an uproar a mere 25 years ago seem pretty quaint now that the biggest quandary for many co-ops seems to be whether to plow their profits into ever-fancier buildings or ever-bigger parking lots. But the best of the old spirit--the spark that caused Finnish immigrants to found co-op stores in the 1920s, and hippies to peddle organic saffron in the '70s--still lives at North Country, one of the last true (that is, collectively managed) stores in town. Hold the chuckles: The position papers have given way to a pragmatism that recently got North Country into a brand-new space complete with three (count 'em!) cash registers, a deli counter, a vastly expanded produce selection and even a little shelf of organic-style meat and fish. You can fill your basket, drop your cash, and leave; or you can put in three hours every other week and become a working member, entitled to a discount and a lifetime vote in co-op affairs. Who said you can't have your politics and eat them too?


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