What is a co-op?
The International Cooperative Alliance defines a co-op as: “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
Here are some local examples and models we are following:
- Weavers Way
Who will run the South Philly Food Co-op?
The South Philly Food Co-op will be owned and run by its member-owners. A general manager, reporting directly to the Co-op Board of Directors, will be hired to run the store operations.
Who can shop there?
The South Philly Food Co-op will be open to the public.
What are the benefits of being a member?
Only member-owners will receive perks such as discounts/refunds and the ability to vote and be counted in general elections. Additionally, with community support in the form of membership, the Co-op will be able to reach its goal of opening in 2015.
How do I join?
By becoming a member-owner, you will quite literally be an owner of the store. Membership costs $200, but this is not a fee or a donation — it’s a one-time investment in the store. The investment can be made in installments, with a required minimum of $25 up front. Pending cash availability, members can choose to withdraw their membership if they move or no longer wish to be members. Member-owner applications are available on our website.
Is there a work requirement?
Every member-owner household (no matter the size) will be required to complete 8 volunteer hours during each calendar year. Household members can determine how to divide this time amongst themselves. There are many different ways to volunteer — from handing out information at Co-op events and updating the website to designing marketing materials and offering legal services — that can leverage members’ skills for the good of the Co-op.
What can I buy at the Co-op?
The South Philly Food Co-op seeks to be a full-service grocery store. Co-ops range widely in terms of offerings; it’s not just a health-food store, and it’s not a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. The South Philly Food Co-op will sell whatever items its members choose, which is another great reason to become a member-owner.
Where will the co-op be located, and how will you decide?
Now that the Co-op has reached the 600 member-owner benchmark, the Real Estate Committee has been given the green light to begin looking for a location and, once a space is secured, sign a lease. Some factors the Real Estate Committee is considering include:
- Accessibility to public transportation
- Square footage
- Location (space that is both close in proximity to where our member-owners live, and a commercial corridor with potential for growth)
Our member-owners have a say in where the Co-op is located within South Philadelphia’s borders, so please join and spread the word to your neighbors.
When will the doors open?
Just like any start-up business, there are a number of factors that need to align before we open our doors. Check out our timeline where you can follow our progress.
Why build the co-op in the first place?
The Co-op will be a community-owned and -controlled enterprise committed to serving its members and being integral to the economic renaissance of South Philadelphia. Member-owners envision the Co-op as a vibrant community hub, connecting the residents of South Philadelphia with each other as well as with local food producers and farmers, who will supply much of the food in the store. The goal is to grow with the community over time, embracing the diversity of the neighborhood and fostering stronger ties among the different social and ethnic groups in South Philly. Co-ops also provide jobs, economic activity, and tend to attract and promote like-minded businesses and activities.
How will it be financed?
The South Philly Food Co-op will be financed through loans from community development entities, credit unions and/or regular banks, in combination with owner equity, grant funding and member loans.
What is the Co-op’s legal status? Am I liable as a part-owner?
The Co-op is incorporated in Pennsylvania as a not-for-profit cooperative enterprise. The Co-op is not a 501c(3) tax exempt charitable organization—and so member equity is not tax deductible—but similar to an LLC, our legal status shields the individual owners’ assets from a liability suit. In the event that the Co-op is sued, the Board of Directors is the responsible party; the Co-op carries liability insurance to protect its assets and the board members.
Community: Empowering South Philly neighbors by giving them a reason to come together
Sustainability: Deepening the connection among neighbors, farmers and local food producers
Economic Growth: keeping local people (and their money) in the neighborhood
Access: Making good food available to South Philadelphians