If you've made it out to a South Philly Food Co-op committee meeting or event in the past few months, you might have heard us refer to the Co-op's "big circle" and its "little circle." Relax, this isn't geometry class and we're not going to ask you to calculate the circumference of either circle. (This is a "no Pi zone.") But we are going to ask you to harken back to lit class, because we're going to talk about what those circles symbolize.
The little circle stands for our store, the place we're working together to build — a grocery store in South Philadelphia, run by South Philadelphians, where South Philadelphians can shop for the products we choose to put on the shelves. We're working hard every day to make that little-circle dream a reality by searching high and low for the perfect location to call home.
But what's the big circle all about?
We recently asked David Woo, one of the area's biggest cheerleaders of and advocates for cooperative ownership, to tell us why he thinks co-ops are so important. What he said has stuck with us:
"This isn't just about local food, this is about the economic power we can push down to the consumer and worker to make big business less relevant and less powerful in our lives. More economic democracy can mean a stronger political democracy for all of us."
Will you help us move toward economic democracy in South Philly by making a gift to the South Philly Food Co-op?
Click here to make your tax-deductible donation by the end of the year, and to help ensure that the big circle will be really big once the little circle falls into place.
Looking for another way to help grow our big circle? Gift the gift of membership to the South Philly Food Co-op, or email us to see how you can pitch in.
Last week, the Co-op's Board of Directors hunkered down with cups of warm apple cider (thanks, Anna S.!) and got down to business: We discussed the status of our committees' work as we do during every meeting, watched a crazy-impressive 25-slide PowerPoint presentation on our potential financial models (thanks, Anna K.!) and shared data we've learned so far from our Member Product Preferences Survey. These 12 folks I meet up with every month are ridiculously smart and dedicated, so I'm really humbled that they put so much of their time into the work of building our Co-op.
Of course, the commitment and expertise brought to the Co-op doesn't stop with the Board. Two of the Co-op's long-long-time member-owners are moving on from their current volunteer roles, and because they aren’t the kind of people to brag about themselves, I’m taking this space to do it for them. Take that!
Molly Peterman has been our incredible bookkeeper basically since the beginning. She set us up in Quickbooks, reconciled every member equity check, and made a weekly trip to our P.O. box. She's done all this, plus hosting potlucks and buying beer for member events, while holding down a job that’s now taking her out of state for a little while. We'll miss Molly, and I hope we’ll have a site to show her when she gets back!
Martin Brown has been sitting on our Outreach Committee since I joined the table. While building his own inspiring local food business, Martin has donated treats to our events, called upon his business connections to take our annual Garden Tour to the next level, and always offered to pick something up in his car. (Side note: I really hope we get to sell pints of his crazy ice cream at our store.)
Because you’re reading this, I bet you have an interest in seeing our Co-op dreams become a reality. And I also bet you have expertise, time or willingness to join us in making it happen. Just reply to this email and I’ll help find the right place for you to help, by volunteering or joining one of our committees.
Till then, read on, visit our blog and follow us on Facebook to find out lots of ways you can get involved with our community right now.
Have a wonderful holiday season,
Leigh Goldenberg, South Philly Food Co-op Board of Directors
Survey: What's on the shelves? You decide.
Here’s another thing you can do to help and have your voice heard! Please take 20 minutes to complete our Member Product Preferences Survey, which is helping shape the vision of our store. Here's a sample question from the survey:
- Store brand olive oil, $6.99/750 ml
- Organic store brand olive oil, $12.99/750 ml
- Single origin artisan olive oil, $14.99/750 ml
On Deck: New Member Orientation
"Do I have to do volunteer hours?"
"How do I answer my friends' questions about the Co-op?"
"What do the committees do?"
"When do I vote for stuff?"
If you've recently joined the Co-op and want to know more about what it's all about, our New Member Orientations are for you. Come meet fellow members and hear from people on our Membership and Marketing/Communications Committee about what the Co-op can do for you -- and what you can do for the Co-op.
And because it'll probably be cold ... hot chocolate for all!
Join us Monday, December 14 at 7 p.m. Click here to RSVP!
Reminder: Shop South Philly this holiday season
Something to keep in mind as you're tackling that gift-shopping list: Shop South Philly offers exclusive discounts and specials to South Philly Food Co-op member-owners when they shop at dozens of participating boutiques (like Occasionette, pictured), restaurants and other shops. Just show your member card or member ID number at these local businesses to receive your discount.
So go ahead — get your discount on, and don’t forget to thank them for supporting your Co-op!
South Philly Food Co-op
Thanks for being a member or supporter of the South Philly Food Co-op! Here's what's happening this month:
Coffee with the Co-op's Board of Directors
Did you miss the Fall General Membership Meeting on October 25? No worries. The Board of Directors wants to catch you up personally on all the Co-op and Committee updates -- including how our real estate search is going -- and give you a chance to provide whatever feedback you might have. On Saturday, November 7, members of our Board of Directors will be having "office hours" just outside of Black N Brew (one of our Shop South Philly partners; located at 1523 E. Passyunk Ave) from 9am until noon. Get all of your questions answered with a one-on-one, face-to-face chat with one of your fellow member-owners who was elected to guide the Co-op through this phase of its development. Even if you don't have any questions, you can use this opportunity to let the board know what's on your mind and provide frank, honest feedback on how you think the process is going. Have some coffee. Let's talk!
Tell Us What Products You Want the Co-op to Carry
Your opinion matters. In fact, according to our by-laws, when it comes to making decisions about the Co-op, the opinions of our member-owners matter more than anything! One of the most important decisions we have to make long before opening is about the philosophy guiding the product mix the store carries. South Philly Food Co-op Member Stephanie Kane, who has some experience with finding answers to these questions as local purchasing coordinator for Weavers Way Co-op, put together a comprehensive Product Preferences Survey. Read more about it on our blog or CLICK HERE to go directly to the survey.
On Deck: Co-op Movie Night
The South Philly Food Co-op will be hosting a screening of "Food for Change" on Wednesday, November 11th at Cinemug. Curious about the cooperative model, or why we believe in it so much? This is the event for you. "Food for Change" is a documentary about food co-ops as a force for social and economic change throughout American history, up to and including today. Doors will open at 7pm for the screening at 7:30pm. Home-made gourmet popcorn to share with all your Co-op friends is highly encouraged. Event is FREE but space is limited so get your FREE ticket now. Did we mention it's FREE?
ICYMI: Update from the Board on Location Search
Last Friday, the Board of Directors sent out a detailed email updating everyone on the latest with our search for the Co-op's home. If you didn't receive the email or lost it among the various newsletters and special offers in your inbox, you can read it on our blog by clicking here.
South Philly Food Co-op
It's your Board of Directors here, writing with an important update for all our members and not-yet-members.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com 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).
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend,
Your South Philly Food Co-op Board of Directors
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!
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!
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.
Opening 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.
Executive Director - Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance
South Philly Food Co-op Member # 1578
Time 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!
Of 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!
GW Childs Elementary School Garden | Comcast
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:Read more
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.
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.