Oct 8, 2010 11:51 AM | 1
Stores like BJ's and Costco have brought to many present-day Brooklynites an irresistible combination of consumer emotions, making us feel simultaneously rich and frugal by allowing us to cram our tiny New York City dwellings with discounted consumer goods. For maybe seventy percent of the regular price, plus the price of your annual membership, you can lay up industrial quantities of frozen cod fillets, kitchen towels, and bottles of detergent so large you can barely lift them. You can buy two dozen eggs at once and watch them ageing in the refrigerator for the next month; you can stuff your freezer with so much frozen quiche that no real man would set foot within a mile of your apartment, and you can set your heart all aflutter carrying 40lb bags of dogfood up four flights of stairs.
Needless to say, such notions have been in the air in Brooklyn for a long time. The first food club in the borough, according to an Eagle article dated December 7, 1947, was started at the Gertzog dairy and grocery store, 1294 Sheepshead Bay Road. Part-owner of the store Boris Edelman said, "Women came here and they didn't have enough money to buy the things their families needed." Borrowing an idea from a Philadelphia butcher, he charged a $1.25 weekly fee and sold food items at wholesale prices. According to his reckoning, he needed at least 350 members in order to turn a profit.
But not everyone was eager to jump on board. One woman refused to believe she could actually save money through the club. Something of a showman, Edelman decided to test her. He said "I pulled a dollar bill out of my pocket and offered it to her for a dime. She refused to take it. 'What's the catch in it?' she wanted to know."