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!


Volunteers are awesome

Every year, dozens of volunteers put their time and sweat equity (we’re hoping for a more temperate day this year!) into making the South Philly Garden Tour possible. You can help us make our 5th annual Tour the most successful yet by signing up to volunteer today.

We are looking for people who can help out for a couple of hours at any point during the day, from setup at 10:30 a.m. to after-party cleanup in the evening, and everything in between. It’s a great opportunity to meet other co-op members and help out with our biggest annual fundraiser.

And there are many great duties.

There's balloon duty...


...there's snack duty...


...And there's after party host duty!


We hope you'll sign up to volunteer today, because we can’t do it without you!

And, if you help out as a site host or with check-in, you can also take the Tour for FREE before or after your shift!

You know you want to.

Any questions email, Jen at


Dating Spaces: Let's Get Technical

Dating Spaces is a series of blog posts in which we share information about our search for a location with our member-owners and supporters. In our first post, we revealed our dating profile; next, we asked our Real Estate Committee chairwoman to share her insights. In this post, Jess Calter gets into some technical detail about what size and shape we're seeking.

You might be wondering: How do we decide what makes a great space?

Aside from the financial modeling and market analysis that goes into site selection, a key part of our search is making sure that we have the space we need to do what we need to do in any given location. In other words, we're not just looking for a certain size, we're also looking for a certain shape for the South Philly Food Co-op.  

Through a grant from the Community Design Collaborative, the Co-op got hooked up with the fabulous folks from UCI Architects to provide programming and advisory services for our site feasibility. UCI helped us to turn research, case studies, interviews and our feasibility study and business plan into a roadmap for Co-op success. Three key components of this plan are the Adjacency DiagramProgram Table and Program Diagram, all three of which have helped the Co-op understand our needs throughout the search. 


First up: The Adjacency Diagram (above) is a graphic version of an outline, representing proposed building spaces and their relationship to one another. This diagram shows the hierarchy of spaces: retail space, back-of-house storage, and staff/office/amenity spaces. The size of the bubble relates to the amount of space required, and the location on the diagram shows how the spaces need to relate. 



The Programming Table is a written table of square footage requirements for the program spaces. Based on requirements from our market and feasibility studies about retail space size and ratios of retail to back-of-house, each department was evaluated on the Co-ops needs, shelving requirements and subsequent circulation requirements. You can see the results in the table above. This is really helpful when we look at a location: Just by knowing the width of a space, we can determine if there is enough room for shelving and shopper circulation.


Lastly, the Program Diagram combines the information in the Programming Table and the Adjacency Diagram, showing how our required spaces can work together as puzzle pieces. It can be scaled and resized depending on the specific location, but it serves as a starting place for our ideal situation. Think of the Program Diagram like Colorforms for creating our perfect Co-op!

Together, these tools are at our disposal as we evaluate each and every site. Not only do they help us visualize our needs, but they also help to highlight potential problems and fantastic features of a possible location.

Questions about these tools? Got a hot real estate tip? Email