S.S.C.B.C and C.B.B.C. of Washington DC in the 1980’s

By Senghor Jawara Baye aka Alvin Ricks (one of the founders). In the early 1980’s several families in the 1200 Block of Shepherd St NW Wash. DC came together and formed S.S.C.B.C Shepherd Street Collective Buying Club later changed to Sure Savings Collective Buying Club. We contacted and organized first 14 families and explained the goals and objectives was to provide 40 to 60% savings on our monthly food bills. Two of our families were the core organizers, the Ricks family and the Watkins family who each lived in the 1200 Block of Shepherd St NW and had some previous experience in organizing, purchasing food wholesale and economic development. Once we explained the bi-weekly operations, everyone was excited and we got started on bi-weekly collection of advance payments and order preparation. Funds were collected on Tuesday’s and the purchase was done between 2 am and 4 am from area wholesalers. once we returned from purchasing bulk foods, we used our basements to break down the food and put it into four large brown bags as one order per family. By 6:15 am on Thursday mornings, each family unit would come pick up their orders. we first were able to purchase 14 items and later when we grew in numbers between 17 and 20 items. we never increased past 24 families, in order to keep the items and amount equal per household. When the numbers past that amount, we made sure to increase to at least 36 units.

This went on for a long time and at times we even traveled to Jessup Maryland to purchase foods wholesale in order to gain a better variety of items. Once a month we would sometimes organize bulk orders of dried food items as well. the fresh produce purchase took place consistently Bi-weekly and became very trust worthy and popular with the families who participated. Naturally word got out about getting 4 full bags of groceries for $25.00 providing tremendous savings and getting quality produce (fruits and vegetables).

So we began to expand and soon out grew our basements as breakdown venues. We began looking for Churches, Schools, etc. who had space enough for us to conduct our breakdowns and that would not charge us much overhead. We were very clear that we didn’t wish to become a business as such, but a collective buying club and to always keep our expenses low.

So we changed the name to Sure Savings Collective Buying Club and formed a non-profit corporation C.B.B.C Community Based Buying Clubs Inc. now we could help others emulate and start their own community based buying clubs. Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church and the Shiloh Family Life Center, Nation House Positive Action Center, Roots Activity Learning Center all agreed to allow us to operate from their buildings over several years. Shiloh Baptist Church started and maintained their own Buying Club and in fact may still be in operation after many years.

After many years of success, the last venue was Roots Activity Learning Center and despite the demand, many of the organizing families either moved on to other grass roots efforts, lost interest or simply got tired of getting up every Saturday morning to conduct the breakdown. Even though we had grown to have food delivered, ordered food via telephone, still there was a need to have a core group to carry out the work. We moved from weekday early morning to weekend purchasing, due to the utilization of the venues. We also had to increase our fee to $30.00 to be able to have additional funds to cover expenses. Our goal was to establish multiple Buying Clubs around the city and make sure the wholesalers gave us the same prices. Build our Buying power to go straight to the farm and cut out the wholesaler if possible, thereby providing better quality and supporting directly the farmer. many other programs manifested with bright ambitions, which really caused and created a lack of trust and service to individuals within our community. This in addition to basic apathy, ignorance etc. caused the folding of SSCBS and CBBC. Many of the main organizer have gone on to many other grass root and community service projects, locally, nationally and globally. Certainly this experience and successful manifestation will someday raise again for the quality of foods, cost of many and the way and means foods are being now grown have become dangerous to our health and simply put cost far to much for the average family of four.

This is our story in short and we do hope this can serve as an example to help motivate folks today in 2014 to re-visit what we were able to create, accomplish and do in the 1980’s.

For anyone is interested in getting something similar started up, I am open to help guide.

Senghor Jawara Baye, senghorb@hotmail.com

One comment

  1. Pingback: New history of Community Based Buying Clubs in DC | Coop DC

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