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Update from the Board on Location Search

It's your Board of Directors here, writing with an important update for all our members and not-yet-members.

Aerial View of South Philadelphia

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who attended Sunday's General Membership Meeting! We had a great time catching up, bowling, sharing Co-op updates and even seeing some new faces. (If you'd like to view the minutes from the meeting, please click here.)

During the meeting, we got some great questions about our real estate search, and we know the store location is on everyone's mind. We'd like to try to answer some of those questions here, in more depth.

In securing a home for the Co-op, sharing information on specifics is a delicate balance. Every time we find a promising location, we want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops! But we can't -- it would jeopardize our negotiating power to reveal too much, too soon. Even when a location is pursued and then taken off the table, we continue to build relationships with those realtors, landlords and developers, and the last thing we want to do is alienate them by exposing information they consider confidential. Sometimes, even when it seems like a space isn't going to work out, it may come back as a possibility -- and being the first to know could be a huge advantage. As an all-volunteer board of directors elected by you, our membership, we are entrusted to make wise decisions on your behalf, and we take that job extremely seriously

The fact is, inventory in South Philly is limited and we are not turning down offers left and right. When we find a possible space, we go through a significant, time-intensive vetting process to make sure that it works with our needs and financial projections. (In other words, we don't just want to find an empty space in South Philly -- we want to find one that has the potential to thrive in the long term. That's five, 10 and 20 years down the line.) We've found spaces that are the right size but far too expensive; we've found reasonable prices in buildings that are in too much disrepair to be a wise investment; and everything in between.  

Pumpkin and other vegetables

That said, we want to be open and honest about how the search is going. We know our membership wants more information, so we're here to provide it. Let's start with some numbers: The Co-op maintains a list of over 95 spaces that have been considered to date. Over the past three years, we have vetted 32 spaces, including visiting sites, meeting with landlords and, in some cases, engaging in lease negotiation. For various reasons, these have not worked out. A few examples:
  • 1535 E. Passyunk Ave. (Former St Jude's): Structural layout restricted efficacy of utilization; delivery access and loading posed too great a challenge

  • 1715 McKean St.: Market study of sales projections for this residential area proved to be insufficient

  • 1172 S. Broad St.: Landlord chose another lessee

  • Ninth and Wharton streets (former Annunciation School): Space layout restricted efficiency of utilization which restricted sales; landlord chose another lessee

  • Shop Rite at Snyder Plaza: Space is too large and the fixed costs to operate it are too high
We continue to work through the options and are currently actively pursuing several specific locations. As always, we are hopeful for a positive result. Rest assured that, as soon as we find a home, our members will be the first to know. 

Till then, we know our members continue to have a lot of questions. Here are some ways you can take action and get involved in the search right now:
  • Read our ongoing blog series "Dating Spaces," which answers members' questions about our location search. The series includes a Q&A with our realtor; an explanation of why we're looking for a 5,000-square-foot store instead of something smaller or larger; and much more. We continue to try to address your concerns in this format as frequently as we can, so if you have questions you'd like answered, please email them to [email protected].

  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We update our supporters regularly on these channels about upcoming events, member news and progress reports. And keep reading these emails, too.

  • Join us for coffee. Members of the Board are holding open "office hours" next Saturday, November 7 (location TBA). We invite you to join us for coffee and bring your questions -- watch our Facebook page for more details. 

  • Join a committee. Our board and committees are made up entirely of dedicated Co-op members who receive no compensation for their time and efforts -- we just want to see the Co-op succeed! If you have opinions about how you think the Co-op could be run more effectively or efficiently, and want to see them enacted, we strongly encourage you to get involved. Click here to learn more.

  • Suggest a location. If you know of a space we should pursue, please let us know! Email [email protected] with your ideas, and we'll be sure to respond to let you know whether the location you've suggested is on our list (and, if not, why).
It's important for us to know how our membership feels as we continue our search, and as always we're trying our best to keep you informed. We encourage you to get involved so your voice can continue to be heard. If you have questions, please email them to [email protected].

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend,

Your South Philly Food Co-op Board of Directors
Board of Directors Group Picture


Your Opinion Matters: Take our new Product Preferences Survey!

We'd like to welcome Stephanie Kane, local purchasing coordinator at Weavers Way Co-op, here to introduce our brand-new Product Preferences Survey! We want to learn about what you hope to see when you walk down the aisles of your future grocery store. The survey should take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. If you have not yet become a member, we're also interested in the opinions of our larger South Philly community, so please feel free to let us know your thoughts. Click here to take the survey!
As a transplant to Philadelphia in 2010, I've always lived in South Philly, or at least below South Street. Like you, I've been anxiously awaiting the opening of the South Philly Food Co-op. Having spent the past five years working at Weavers Way, I don't know what I would do without my co-op! 

At Weavers Way, I focus on finding local producers for our four stores, including farmers, bakers and makers of your new favorite soap, pasta or hummus. When I began working with South Philly on this survey, I asked myself, as a member, “What sort of products should we carry?" I've seen co-ops with 1,000 members that were 100% organic, as well as co-ops that were as conventional as a big-box store, serving 30,000 members. 

This survey will help build a clear product philosophy that will guide the General Manager. Should there be a cut-to-order meat department? A serve-yourself bulk area, or should bulk items be prepackaged? Will shoppers strongly prefer Certified Organic, or is local a higher priority? These details actually affect the layout of the store, so it's information we need to know! 

This survey is open to EVERYONE, not just members. We will sort out member requests to give them priority, but we want to see what all our potential shoppers are looking for. So curl up with some tea, and prepare to spend about 20 minutes completing the survey. 

As a South Philly Food Co-op member and a Weavers Way employee, I'm excited to see the continued focus on the cooperative model in Philadelphia. It's because of your time, effort and interest that South Philadelphia will soon have its own member-owned market!

Get to know our new board members!

On May 27 at the Spring General Membership Meeting, the member-owners who assembled elected six new members to the South Philly Food Co-op's Board of Directors. They are: Nathaniel Cauldwell, Jose Garcia, Leigh Goldenberg, Carolyn Huckabay, Emily Kohlhas, and Dana Mitchell.

Bios for our new and continuing board members can be found on the Board of Directors page of our website.

At their first convening in July, the board chose from among its members a new group of officers:

President: Jessica Calter

Vice President: Josh Richards

Treasurer: Anna Kisiel

Secretary: Anna Shipp

Congratulations to our new officers!

The Co-op would also like to thank our six outgoing board members for their service. Maria Sourbeer, Mary Beth Hertz, John Raezer, Joseph F. Marino, Cassie Plummer and Julia Koprak were all elected to the original Board of Directors in 2011. They played an instrumental part in guiding the Co-op through its early phases and helping to build it to the membership it has today. Maria served as Vice President; John served as Treasurer; and Mary Beth served as Secretary at some point during their time on the Board. All remain member-owners and we look forward to seeing them around the neighborhood! Thanks!


Dating Spaces: From a Cooperator Who's Been There Before

Here at the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, we are big fans of the Dating Spaces series. We also care about you and don't want you to rush into a relationship that's not sustainable in the long run. We've heard too many stories of food co-ops falling in love with a space before they were ready to commit, or a co-op discovering skeletons in the closet after it's too late. Here's some relationship advice from someone who’s been through it before.

In 2012 and 2013, I chaired the Kensington Community Food Co-op Planning Committee, leading a great group of volunteers and experts on a search for a space. We toured a couple dozen possible sites, discussed a new construction development, but none fit the criteria that we were looking for. We certainly felt the urgency to find a space in a short amount of time, and the fear of never finding a suitable space was very real. New possibilities continued to pop up, which kept us feeling hopeful. We circled back to a great looking site that was previously way out of our price range. The price dropped by enough to set up a meeting with the owner, and the price continued to drop, allowing us to eventually commit to signing a lease. Patience paid off for KCFC, and patience is still needed as there is still more fundraising to do.

Peter FrankOpening a successful co-op grocery store is really, really, really, really hard. It's even harder to pull off when you're a group of residents pooling money $200 at a time to do it. South Philly Food Co-op has already overcome a lot of the hurdles that prevent most food co-ops from ever attempting to secure a location. With over 650 members and their $200 equity investments, your Co-op has become a mature start-up food co-op that is ready to commit to a space. This hard-earned capital must be used wisely, and shouldn't be spent on just any space that looks like a good deal or has the appearance of a good potential grocery store.

Grocery stores are complicated operations and they have very specific needs. They need suitable areas to receive deliveries, enough room on a single floor to properly display and store all the products, and staff will need some sort of an office to work in. If you want to dig deeper into these requirements, check out the great blog post from May 26th. These requirements eliminate most eligible commercial properties, unfortunately. People are also creatures of habit that are used to shopping along routes that they already know. As such, the store should be on a commercial corridor if possible, but those buildings can be very expensive. You're starting a grocery store with very thin margins, so the rent has to be affordable. There are a lot of variables to consider, and the Real Estate Committee clearly has a handle on things.

I commend your Co-op for being so patient; a lesser co-op would have pulled the trigger by now. The store of your dreams may be right around the corner. Keep your standards high, but understand that compromise is inevitable. Be wary that too much compromise might compromise the Co-op's ability to be profitable. Food co-ops do have a much higher survival rate than most independent businesses. I think a lot of this success has to do with food co-ops forcing themselves to be patient and work with a group of people to make the best decision.

Cooperatively yours,
Peter Frank
Executive Director - Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance
South Philly Food Co-op Member # 1578


Garden Tour Countdown: Get Your Guac On

GuacamoleTime to flex those Labor Day muscles and get to work on the best guac you’ve ever made… and we’ve got just the recipe! Friends and family at the barbecue later will thank you, we promise. Pro tip: please don’t touch other people after handling jalapeño. Turns out they really hate that.

On to the recipe:

4 ripe avocados
¼ cup diced grape or cherry tomatoes (or mangoes if you’re feelin’ funky)
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and minced
Coarsely chopped cilantro, to taste (we like about 1 tablespoon)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
½ teaspoon cumin (or to taste)
½ teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients except the avocados, salt and pepper to let the flavors blend for about 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, mash the avocadoes with a fork, leaving little chunks of avocado intact. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper, then gently fold in the other ingredients. Serve immediately!

Los CamaradasOf course, for the real experts on contemporary Mexican cuisine, you may want to head over to Los Camaradas this coming Saturday for the South Philly Garden Tour after party from 4 to 6 p.m. They’ll be passing around complimentary bocaditos (appetizers) and serving up delectable drink specials ($3 house drafts, $4 sangria, $6 margaritas). Los Camaradas was named one of 10 best new restaurants in Philly by Thrillist this spring. They’re also the proud holders of Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly: Best Nachos award this year.

We know, we know... You’re salivating. We are, too. So hurry up and get your tickets to the 5th Annual South Philly Garden Tour today to get a taste of all this garden and guac goodness!


Garden Tour Countdown: All Hands On Deck! Awesome Community Gardens


 GW Childs Elementary School Garden | Comcast

Buy your South Philly Garden Tour tickets today!

We're counting down the days till the South Philly Garden Tour! Check this blog early and often for details on participating gardens, tour hubs, swag, press and much more! Hope to see you September 12!

If you've been on any of our previous garden tours, you know that while South Philly gardens come in all shapes and sizes, they're all labors of love. Sometimes that love comes from one single-minded person with a big heart (and a very green thumb). Other times, it takes a village. That's the case with the three community gardens featured in this year's tour. Let's take a look:

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Garden Tour Countdown: Newbold CDC's Triple Threat

We're counting down the days till the South Philly Garden Tour! Check this blog early and often for details on participating gardens, tour hubs, swag, press and much more! Hope to see you September 12!

Triple Garden Tour Threat: Newbold Triangle, 18th Street War Memorial, Stephen Girard Elementary Front Lawn Gardens 


Since three of our Garden Tour spots are maintained by the Newbold Community Development Corporation, we decided to go right to the source and ask Tim Lidiak, NCDC president, about the organization's three host sites: Newbold Triangle, the War Memorial and the Stephen Girard ES Front Lawn Gardens (pictured, above). According to Tim, all three are the product of over three years of hard labor by volunteers from Newbold CDC as well as the West Passyunk Neighbors Association.

Says Tim:

The Newbold Triangle and the War Memorial originated in 2013 when the City Streets Department reconstructed West Passyunk Avenue and its intersections to better accommodate pedestrians, which resulted in the creation of large concrete spaces at several intersections.  Newbold CDC encouraged the Streets Department to leave several of these spaces unpaved so that CDC volunteers could plant the area.  So, with the design guidance of local horticulturalist Jeff Goldman, the CDC planted the public area behind the Melrose Diner with a variety of hardy, drought-resistant perennials, including Black Eyed Susans, Russian Sage, Itea Virginica May NIght salvia, and a variety of roses.

The 18th Street War Memorial has been in existence since the early 1960s; however, the Memorial was a small space surrounded by a chain-link fence, in derelict condition and unmaintained. As part of the West Passyunk Avenue reconstruction, Newbold CDC encouraged the Streets Department to expand the space around the Memorial and to install an aluminum "wrought iron" fence around its perimeter.  Once the construction work was completed, Newbold CDC identified local resident and gardener Chris Marino, who was interested in generating a garden within the Memorial.  In the past three years, Chris has planted a variety of perennials, in particular roses and a Butterfly bush, and has maintained the garden and in so doing, has provided this memorial to U.S. war veterans with the dignity that it deserves

The third garden, the front lawn of Stephen Girard Elementary School, is a collaborative effort of West Passyunk Neighbors Association (WPNA) and Newbold CDC. In 2013, the front lawn of the school was covered by over 20 overgrown shrubs, which blocked the view of the lawn from the sidewalk and street.  Joining forces, the two organizations under the leadership of WPNA Board member Tom Hawthorn, slowly began removing the shrubs, debris and trash, and over the past three years have planted a number of gardens, including a rose garden and a sunflower garden, within the confines of the lawn. Tom also maintains several raised vegetable beds used by students for growing vegetables as part of the school's healthy eating program.



Buy your tickets to the fifth annual South Philly Garden Tour today!



Garden Tour Countdown: A Word From Our Sponsors

We're counting down the days till the South Philly Garden Tour! Check this blog early and often for details on participating gardens, tour hubs, swag, press and much more! Hope to see you September 12!

Simply the Best: Thank you, Garden Tour sponsors!

The fifth annual South Philly Garden Tour is in just a couple of weeks, and we'd be remiss not to mention all the folks who are helping us make this year's tour our best one yet.

In addition to a whopping 29 garden hosts, this year's tour features 39 amazing sponsors! We really couldn't do this without you. 

Be sure to check out these local businesses the next time you're strolling the neighborhood, and don't forget that many of them also participate in our Shop South Philly partnership, offering amazing discounts to Co-op card-holders! 


Julian Abele Sponsors: Ladderback DesignEver PicturesIan Toner Architects

Marian Anderson Sponsors: Los CamaradasPhilly Home GirlsBerkshire Hathaway Home ServicesGen 3 Electric, Dan Pohlig/Alison Fritz, Green Mountain EnergyUltimo CoffeeMSC RealtySaul EwingAlbert Yee Photography

Ralph Brooks Sponsors: Little Baby's Ice CreamCamden PrintworksOccasionetteSix Fishes Healing ArtsKoliyanBarlume ApothecaryValley Green Bank (Univest)Weavers Way Food Co-opGraham Bailer ArchitectsSullivan StrategicFireball PrintingGerber GrowthTriangle TavernPassyunk Post

DiSilvestro Sponsors: Soom FoodsFitness Works PhiladelphiaWake Up YogaTicketLeapMariposa Food Co-opThrivent Financial, Jess Calter/Michael Fenton, Miss Rachel's PantryWalkies LLCMessage AgencyCook N SoloPrep & Foxx

Buy your tickets to the fifth annual South Philly Garden Tour today!


Garden Tour Countdown: Why Do You Garden?


Buy your South Philly Garden Tour tickets today!

We're counting down the days till the South Philly Garden Tour! Check this blog early and often for details on participating gardens, tour hubs, swag, press and much more! Hope to see you September 12!

Stephanie Zbikowski, 2013 South Philly Garden Tour alumna


I garden because of my mother, who shared her love of gardening with me at an early age, and that love has never left me. For me, gardening is a form of creative expression, a kind of living art.

I've probably failed as much as I’ve succeeded, but I have always enjoyed getting out there and trying new things. I decided to be a part of the 3rd annual South Philly Garden Tour to share my process and encourage others to go for it.IMG_1591_sm.jpg

But my favorite part of the being a stop on the tour was how I got to connect with my neighbors over a common interest. Instead of meeting somewhere, they came to my home, and it was exciting to interact with people in my community in this very different way. I hope I inspired others to "green up" their spaces, but I also learned so much about gardening and my neighborhood--and I came out of it with great ideas about other ways to improve my outdoor space.

IMG_5228_sm.jpgThe experience far exceeded my expectations and I recommend it to everyone. On the tour, you’re sure to appreciate people’s creativity and how much you can do with very little money or very little space. I guarantee, you will be go home inspired.

September in Philly can have some awesome weather, too, so I'm looking forward to a perfect day to spend the day outside in my neighborhood.IMG_2132_sq.jpg

Buy your tickets to the fifth annual South Philly Garden Tour today!












Garden Tour Countdown: Spotlight on Julian Abele Park


Buy your South Philly Garden Tour tickets today!

We're counting down the days till the South Philly Garden Tour! Check this blog early and often for details on participating gardens, tour hubs, swag, press and much more! Hope to see you September 12!

This year's South Philly Garden Tour Hub, where you'll check in and grab your program and swag bag, is Julian Abele Park. Located on 22nd Street between Montrose and Carpenter, it was Philadelphia's first new public park in over a decade when it opened in 2008.

Named after a South Philadelphia resident, architect Julian Abele, who was the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Architecture School and contributed to the design of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Friends of Julian Abele Park commissioned local artist Christopher Wheeler to create, fabricate, and install its beautiful perimeter fence and gate. The design was inspired by Mr. Abele's design of the Duke University Chapel (depicted in the mural at the rear of the park).

The park sponsors a weekly farmers' market (Tuesdays from 2-7 p.m. through early September) and plans to add bike racks along 22nd street and replace the existing lighting with energy-efficient LED fixtures.

See you there!