Melissa Danielle recently launched Bed-Stuy Bounty, and innovative kind of buying club meant to give neighborhood residents (or anyone willing to make the trip to Bed-Stuy to pick up their stuff) access to all kinds of local, organic and fair-trade foods at wholesale prices.
How does it work? The club is powered by a startup called Wholeshare. Wholeshare works with local farmers, producers and distributors to procure fresh produce and local goods.
Regional Access, a progressive-minded local distributor who supplies the Park Slope Food Co-op with much of their New York State produce, is in the fold, along with local farmers and producers that Wholeshare works with directly. All participating farmers, producers and distributors essentially make their entire product lines available to buying club members at wholesale prices.
Wholeshare’s website provides club members with smooth access to all the products. All purchases from every member of the club are aggregated into one big shipment that’s delivered to a pickup location in Bed-Stuy every other week. For the lazy, there’s a home delivery option for an additional fee.
The catch? In order for it to make business sense for Regional Access and the participating local farmers and producers to make their products available to the buyers club at wholesale prices, they have to be able to sell those products in bulk. So each participating farmer, producer and distributor sets minimum order amounts required for each product, which must be met by the buying club as a whole before the product ships.
No, this doesn’t mean you need to order a whole pallet of artisanal pickles in order to get that sweet wholesale price. It means buyers club members can each place orders for however many pickles they want, but no transaction happens and no pickles are shipped until enough individual orders have been placed to meet the minimum required.
Wholeshare seems to make quick work of the potentially nightmarish task of tracking the progress of these individual purchases toward the minimum goal: Buying club members browse products online and place the items they want in their ‘cart.’ The cart indicates whether or not each item has reached the minimum quantity required to ship. If it hasn’t, it indicates how many additional units need to be purchased to close the deal. All orders from all club members are processed in aggregate each week. Items for which not enough orders have been received won’t ship that week, but they’ll stay in the carts of members who’ve ordered them until enough orders come in to trigger the transaction and shipment.
There’s a $75 fee to join the club with an additional annual fee of $40 per year after the first year, but if members save 30+% off the retail price they’d normally pay for locally-grown and made groceries, they should find themselves coming out ahead in a matter of weeks.
We asked Melissa how she found out about Wholeshare and decided to launch a Bed-Stuy buying club.
So Melissa, what’s the deal with the buying club?
I’m tired of having to leave Bed-Stuy for all the foods I love, and I’m too lazy to keep up with co-op shifts. I’m currently suspended from the Park Slope Food Co-op.
I was a core member of the Bed-Stuy Farm Share CSA for three years. I wanted to do more to bring good food into the neighborhood, but not necessarily a brick-and-mortar store. The buying club seemed like just the ticket.
How did you find Wholeshare?
I first heard about Wholeshare a couple of years ago at a food + tech connect meetup. They were one of several projects presenting online group buying models. Meatshare, which is a pretty popular New York City-based buyers club that buys meat directly from local farmers, is another one. Wholeshare has come out of Beta-mode since then, and New York State is their pilot market. I think Bed-Stuy Bounty is the first New York City club. They have a few others active upstate.
I really like their model because they’re working with both a regional distributor and with local producers, and there’s buyer choice. Some other buying club models don’t offer that.
I also like that Wholeshare takes care of half the work for me – they manage all the ordering, transactions and delivery, so I just have to worry about receiving, sorting, packaging and distribution. I don’t mind handling that as long as I don’t have to think about the money.
It might not be the end-all-be-all, but that’s fine because I like to spread the love when it comes to supporting both local brands and local businesses. But it’ll definitely make shopping for good food easier in Bed-Stuy.