Barneys Co-op Draws Ire for Its Name

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Face-off of the co-ops. Photo: Mary-Louise Price; Photos: Paul Lowry’s Flickr, Creative Commons, Barneys Coop

Barneys Co-op and members-only grocer Park Slope Food Coop are in a scuffle over the use of the term "co-op." It seems that after Barneys’ announcement that it would be bringing its spinoff store to Cobble Hill this fall, the market’s general manager, Joe Holtz, turned a bit territorial. He claims that the retailer misuses the word and dilutes his brand image, one that he’s been cultivating for the Coop’s 37 years of existence. “It’s a new thing having a co-op in Brooklyn that’s not a co-op,” he told The Brooklyn Paper. “There is something wrong with that.”

Holtz says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll bring the issue to court on the basis of New York’s “Cooperative Corporations Law.” (The document states that “The term ‘cooperative’ … shall not be used as, or in, a name except by a corporation defined in this chapter,” though a couple of lawyers in the article describe the law as “arcane” and “antiquated.”) Either way, Barneys doesn’t seem too worried. “The year 2010 will be our 25th anniversary since opening the co-op,” a spokeswoman told the Paper. “We’ve been using this phrase for a long time.” Plus, the brand name is trademarked. Were Holtz to pursue his vendetta, such a violation is considered a misdemeanor — meaning Barneys would have to fork over a maximum fine of $500.