Monday, February 28, 2011

Urban Homesteader Hall of Fame - Genesee Co-op

When I moved away from college in the '70's and started cooking and eating natural foods, a co-worker told me about the Genesee Co-op, located in an old firehouse in Rochester. I used to drive there on Saturday mornings, oftentimes picking up a load of free-range eggs or fresh milk from local farms as part of my monthly work requirement.
In addition to the food store, the co-op building contained a macrobiotic restaurant called "The Regular Restaurant", and an upstairs store that sold household items. They had macrobiotic cooking equipment, hand-crank juicers, 100% cotton clothing (way before organic cotton was available) and a wonderful selection of baskets and small home furnishings. In later years, the selection morphed into mostly greeting cards and scented candles, still nice to visit, but not as helpful for the urban homesteader as in the early years. There was a small community darkroom, a book bindery, a pottery studio and even a savings and loan office upstairs.
I had a great time visiting the co-op, and met lots of great people there. Its here that I learned how to store and cook tofu, and they even had nigari when it was my turn to make my own from scratch.
The co-op provided the only market for small home-based food processing businesses in the area. Vendors would bring in small batches of home-baked goodies and nut butters on the weekends, when the crowds were larger. On some winter Saturday mornings, we would even have to close the co-op to new visitors because it was so crowded.
The original fire pole still went from the home goods store down to the food store, right behind the cash register.


  1. I'm trying to find aold pictures of the genessee food coop for a you have any??
    Thanks, Zach Nowak

    znowak AT umbra-institute DOT com

  2. No pictures, I am sorry, just fond memories. I remember more how it smelled. Indian spices, developer chemicals wafting in from upstairs in the afternoons, the smell of fried tempura in the late afternoons when dinner was being cooked at the restaurant, fresh granola bars made with maple and cardamom.