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South Philadelphia: Residents Plan to Build Community-Owned Grocery Store

By Andrea Jordan and Samantha Byles  April 21, 2013

Some South Philadelphia residents look forward to having their own neighborhood-owned grocery store within the next year.

Alison Fritz, a Passyunk Square resident, is the President of South Philly Food Co-op, a group of local residents preparing to open a locally owned and resourced grocery store for the neighborhood.

The South Philly Food Co-op focuses on three missions: building community, partnering with local businesses and offering South Philadelphia residents fresh, local and organic food.

In April 2010, Fritz called a community meeting to explore her idea of a grocery store owned by local members. Over 60 people attended that meeting and wanted to participate in the launch.

“We were all strangers and we’ve grown to a stable community organization with more than 450 members,” Fritz said.

Active members make up many of the neighborhoods in South Philadelphia. “South of South Street is the focus but there are even members that live in Center City and Queen Village,” Fritz said.

The current focus for the member-owned organization is to increase membership. The group’s recent goal of their 75/75 campaign, to gain 75 members in 75 days, was exceeded.

“We put together this campaign to help push past the plateau in our growth and get people excited about the co-op,” Cassie Plummer, the membership committee chair, stated.

With each phase of membership increasing, the organization will move onto a different goal. When the group hit 250 members, for example, Fritz and her board activated a real estate committee.

The real estate committee began to research what exactly it takes to select a location to build on and the different challenges they should expect.

When the group hit 400 members, the real estate committee began going to on-site visits, identifying desired locations for the grocery store.

The next membership goal is to hit 600 members. This is the organizations goal before reaching the construction phase.

Members in the organization are often referred to as member-owners. “Members purchase an equity share in the business,” Fritz said. All members put in $200 and it gives them a share in the business and a voice in all decision making. Membership is purchasing a governance share in the project.

The community members thrive on the idea of keeping business within the community. Fritz explained, “The money spent at Whole Foods, goes back to their corporation. None of that money ends up staying in the local economy and it does not support the shoppers.”

This organization’s goal is to keep all money within the neighborhood to support and build a stronger economy in South Philadelphia.

The organization works with local vendors and businesses to influence community members to keep the money within the community.

“One of the coolest things, is building a community and bridging a gap between all the neighborhoods in South Philadelphia,” Fritz stated.

The goal for the organization is to have the grocery store open and serving the community by the end of 2014. While the grocery store will be located in South Philadelphia, everyone will have access.

The next, bi-annual general membership meeting will be held on Sunday, May 19. The meeting will give updates to all member-owners and perspective members about business plans for the present and the future.

For more information on volunteering for the organization or getting involved visit South Philly Food Co-op’s website for details.

Read more at Philadelphia Neighborhoods.