Deciding where to shop for groceries and products can be a struggle, especially when you start to consider what each store has to offer. Here in Durham, there are so many options, like Harris Teeter, Food Lion, and Whole Foods, but the unique and underrated Durham Co-Op Market, a cooperative grocer and café, could be your new go-to for all of your grocery, wellness, and household needs.

Here's a list of reasons why the Co-Op Market is Durham's hidden gem and why, in the words of their marketing manager, it's "the best damn grocer in North Carolina."

1. Lunch specials every weekday

Salad and hot bars are super convenient, but the price of toppings and sides adds up quickly! Every weekday from 11 AM - 2 PM, the Co-Op has a $5 Lunch Special. Vegan options are always available, so these fresh and handy meals are sure to be a favorite among your friends and family!

2. Weekly dinner deals

In a bind and need to grab a quick, cheap dinner on your way home after a long Thursday? The Durham Co-Op Market offers $3 dinners on Thursday nights featuring a pre-set menu from the Hot Bar and, of course, a vegan option! Whether they're serving up jerk chicken skewers or dishing out summer corn chowder, it's a guarantee that you won't be leaving hungry or disappointed (and I bet you'll clean your plate).

3. The perfect produce picks

We've all been the person that critically inspected every apple and dug through the stack of berries in an effort to find the perfect pick, and even then, we didn't know until we got home if we made the right choice. The Co-Op understands the constant battle shoppers have with produce and has fresh fruit samples for you to try before you make your pick, and honestly, who can turn down a bite of a fresh-sliced, juicy peach?

4. Learn while you shop 

In addition to stocking local products, the Co-Op goes the extra mile to educate shoppers about what they're putting in their baskets. Signs throughout the store mark each locally-sourced product, highlight where it is from, and provide some fun facts, like what you can expect flavor-wise. These unique signs add a personal and educational touch to the grocery store experience and help shoppers leave the Durham Co-Op Market feeling great about supporting local vendors!

5. They mean what they say & say what they mean

Printed on the wall of the café in bright green and yellow read the Co-Ops six core values, each rooted in equality, equity, and inclusivity. Before making any decisions regarding new products, services, or events, the Co-Op ensures that the potential addition to the market adheres to all of their explicit values! Emphases on sustainability, quality, and community make this aspect of the Co-Op special and remind shoppers that their well-being is always being considered. The Durham Co-Op Market cares for the community and always walks their talk.

6. More than merely a market

Unlike most stores, the Durham Co-Op Market isn't a place where shoppers go just to shop. It's a community meeting place where strangers, friends, and families gather together, children play, and good vibes flow. It's a place where every face is a familiar one, and an environment that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Shoppers mingle and interact, diners chat over their hot bar dinners, and puppies sunbathe in the courtyard. Here, everyone is welcome, and everyone is home.

7. Fun, new takes on dietary restrictions

For those of us with dietary restrictions or food allergies, we know it's easy to get in the habit of eating the same thing for days on end. With the help of Sweeties Vegan and Southern Catering, the Co-Op puts an innovative spin on meals for those with special dietary restrictions and keeps the creative options coming. Sweeties' themed Meatless Mondays feature creative menus like breakfast for dinner and have accrued quite the following! For dessert, local brands, such as JP's Pastry, provide delicious treats for your favorite vegan or gluten-free friends and family members! Trust me, you won't be able to pass up one of JP's fudge brownies...

8. For Durham, By Durham

At the Co-Op, providing quality goods for the Durham community is about more than making money; it's about YOU! The Durham Co-Op Market provides a wide range of compassionate services to shoppers and employees alike, such as financial counseling in the Café. Additionally, those who are eligible for SNAP benefits qualify for a discount ownership rate that gives them access to discounts each time they shop, and the Co-Op strives to provide employment opportunities for community members who may have employment barriers. The Co-Op cares about each and every product, employee, and shopper and goes above and beyond to give back to the Durham community!