- After being in development for more than a decade, South Philly Food Co-op, a community-owned grocery store based in South Philadelphia, is set to open Wednesday, according to a press release.
- The 3,300-square-foot store, which aims to become a "community hub," will offer products including pasture-raised meat, cheese, fresh fish and organic produce from local vendors.
- The co-op is turning the challenges of opening during the novel coronavirus pandemic into a differentiator and placing special emphasis on making ownership stakes available to people with limited financial resources, who will be able to buy into the organization for an initial investment of $5.
The South Philly Food Co-op may be launching a retail operation at a challenging time, but it is using its intense community focus as a way to stand out to shoppers.
The co-op is paying special attention to building equity with customers by making it affordable for them to become member-owners — a status that provides access to benefits like member sales and discount days. Membership in the co-op also allows members to get discounts through the Shop South Philly program, an initiative to encourage people to buy products from local merchants.
The organization, which is open to the general public, offers ownership stakes for $300 and allows people to divide that amount into as many as 12 separate payments. People who have difficulty affording a membership stake at that rate can elect to join the co-op through a community equity fund that allows them to pay $5 upfront and then invest whatever they can over five years.
The co-op is beginning operations with more than 1,400 member-owners — exceeding its goal, and capping an effort that stretched over the decade it took to turn the concept into reality. By May 2012, two years after holding its first organizational meeting, the co-op had 250 members, and it hit the 1,000-member mark in October 2018.
A chief goal of the co-op is to provide people “of all income levels access to fresh, local, and sustainable groceries,” according to the announcement. Many people in the area the store serves face challenges in accessing healthy food because they rely on public transportation or walk, Lori Burge, one of the co-op's general managers, told Philadelphia Magazine in an interview published last year.
The store offers delivery services through Bloc Delivery, an online ordering and electric bike-delivery company that began operations in March. The co-op also plans to offer unique services, including a buddy program that will match shoppers with health conditions with neighbors who can pick up their groceries for them.