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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