Weavers Way Co-op Grocery Store is preparing to open a fourth new community-owned store at 328 W. Chelten Avenue in the summer of 2023. The community co-operative was founded by Jules Timerman in January of 1973 in Mount Airy. The other two locations are Chestnut Hill and Ambler.
When What Now Philadelphia spoke with Jon Roesser, general manager for the co-operative he said, “Our particular Co-Op is open to the public, so everyone can shop but about 75% of the people who shop in our stores are member-owners of the coop so they have an equity stake in the coop. When we decide to grow and open up a new location, it’s one of the important factors is you know, how can we better meet our member’s needs. We have a ton of members who live in Germantown and East Falls where we currently don’t have a store. We’ve got 1200 member households that live in Germantown and we’ve got 350 that live in East Falls.”
The cooperative model of grocery stores versus the for-profit model differs the most in one key aspect. While for-profit grocery stores rely on private equity through venture capital to expand into new areas, the cooperative, non-profit model raises capital through its members. Roesser expanded on the topic and said, “our answer to Wall Street venture capital is member loans, where we have members who are owners of Weavers Way, lend us the capital necessary for the construction and the equipment and all that we’re also exploring some more traditional like bank financing as well. But our answer to private equity is member equity.”
The food that you can buy at Weavers Co-op is different too. According to their website, “At our two farm locations, Weavers Way grows more than 50 different types of vegetables and fruit on 6.5 acres, supplying our farmers market, the Weavers Way Co-op stores, and the Henry Got Crops CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with fresh produce.” Part of being a member-owner is that you have the option of becoming a working member, which means that you can work, at the store, the farms, or other areas, and receive an additional 5% discount.
Part of Weavers Way’s ethos is to serve the community and what better way to do so than to get people involved and help them become more knowledgable about farming and the day-to-day running of a co-operative? In addition to healthy locally grown produce, the company has a “triple bottom line” that has nothing to do with profitability.
When What Now Philadelphia asked what Jon Roesser wanted everyone to know, he said this, “But I’d say first and foremost, we are very excited and truly honored that we are going to become part of Germantown and that we have always been and will continue to be good community partners. We look forward to partnering with all kinds of community groups in Germantown as we do in our other neighborhoods, whether it’s schools or faith-based groups, or community organizations. We are more than just a grocery store.”