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  


Dating Spaces: A Q&A with the Co-op's realtor, Jacob Cooper

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 up, we asked our Real Estate Committee chairwoman to share her insights. 

We already know your No. 1 question about the Co-op: Where is it going to be located? But the answer's anything but simple. A ton of thought, research, pavement-pounding and negotiations are going into our search, and we're working with a local realtor to help us navigate the tricky waters of South Philly real estate. To provide insight about the process, we decided to go right to the source: our realtor and resident property guru, Jacob Cooper, partner & managing director at MSC Retail, here to shed light on what's going on behind the scenes. Thanks for your insights, Jacob! 
Q. What's the current climate of the commercial real estate rental market? Are properties generally renting quickly?  
A. The climate is strong for commercial real estate right now. Rents are definitely rising, which typically pushes small businesses out to peripheral retail locations.
Q. What are the top three things you look for in a space for the Co-op?
A. Convenient location, functional layout, and affordable rent.
Q. Of the spaces that haven't worked for us, what are the top three reasons why they didn't work out?
A. Through this search, the Real Estate Committee has discovered that the perfect space simply doesn't exist. It's all about finding a space that satisfies as many of our requirements as possible. Rent has easily been our No. 1 issue. Other requirements include access to public transit, functional loading and trash solutions, visibility, signage and wide, usable dimensions. Plus, the space has to be delivered with upgraded utilities, HVAC, bathrooms, etc.
Q. How long does it typically take to negotiate a contract with a landlord?  
A. Retail negotiations can take months. They are complex negotiations.
Q. What are the pros and cons to renting a space vs. buying? 
A. With buying, you control your own destiny and potentially grow your equity in the building as it appreciates in value. However, if you don't want to tie up capital with inactive cash (like a down payment), it's better to rent. Renting also keeps relocation options on the table.
Q. What types of businesses spaces (former banks, auto body shops, retail storefronts, etc.) are most likely to work well as a co-op?  
A. Typical storefronts (like many on Passyunk Avenue) won't work for us because they are too small. We are looking at properties with more width, like warehouses and other commercial properties.  
Q. What if you find a space that's perfect ... except it's too big? Would the Co-op consider splitting a space with another business?  
A. Absolutely.
Q. Are you a member of the Co-op? 
A. Not yet, but I've promised myself I will join the day we sign a lease!
[Editor's note: We know Jason isn't the only one who's waiting to become a member till our location is secured! Our membership base is so strong already, and we can't wait to welcome even more member-owners once we have a forever home.]

Dating Spaces: Hear from our Real Estate Committee Chair about The Search

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. The following is from the Co-op's Real Estate Committee Chair Angel D'Ippolito.

"Everyone's favorite hypothetical grocery store."

I remember attending the very first meeting of the Co-op's Real Estate Committee back on July 9, 2012. There were a lot of people at that first meeting, which really showed how eager people were even back then to get the store up and running. Now, as the chair of the committee nearly three years later, no one is as eager as me to turn the hypothetical store store into a physical reality.

The Real Estate Committee is 100% committed to finding the right space for our store. We have examined the viability of over 80 properties. We have done site visits of about 20 of them. Committee members have had countless meetings with potential landlords, developers, state and city legislators and agencies, civic leaders, lenders, other co-op leaders, and realtors. We interviewed half a dozen realtors and hired one. Through a Community Design Collaborative grant, we worked with a local architecture firm to prepare an architectural program for the store. Market studies have been obtained, financial pro formas prepared, and so much more has been done in the effort to find the right location.

You might have noticed that I didn't say we are looking for the "perfect" space. The reality is that no site in South Philly can meet every single item on our dream store wishlist. However, I am convinced that we will find the space that has the necessary balance in location, shape, size, loading, accessibility, and price. We face a fair amount of challenges. The biggest challenge thus far has been in finding spaces that (i) exist and are available, (ii) fit our few must-haves, and (iii) are priced in a way that gives the Co-op a good chance at long-term success. Places that are too big are too expensive to operate. Spaces too small don't offer the ability to stock enough product to sustain necessary sales. Locations on ideal commercial corridors are often priced way too high or get scooped up quickly by other suitors. Locations hidden away in neighborhoods often don't offer high enough sales projections to justify the start-up costs.

Phew - that's a lot of generalizations, I know! Know, however, that we analyze each and every location that comes to our attention with specificity and balance. We investigate every location that is brought to our attention, while actively searching for new potential sites. Sometimes we revisit prior sites to see if anything has changed.

We really need you, fellow members, to be on the lookout for spaces that you think match our dating profile. Call 215-839-8213 or email us with any possible locations. As I said, we'll leave no stone unturned!

We promise that we are moving as quickly as reasonably possible while exploring sites with diligence. As winning basketball coach John Wooden once said, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"


Dating Spaces: You Can't Hurry Love

It's been awhile since we've updated our member-owners and neighbors about the search for our dream location, so we know what you must be thinking: When is the Co-op going to find a space? Why are they being so picky?

Let's work backward on those questions for just a moment. We're being picky because we want to be sure we find a space we're completely, entirely committed to. We've done market studies and developed performance indicators that give us a clear sense of what we need in a space that would serve us well, not just the other way around.

Isn't that what a healthy relationship is all about? You know, this whole process has felt a lot like dating. It's been exhilarating and frustrating and inspiring and maddening -- sometimes all in one day. On the upside, though, all the disappointing site visits (the one-night stands of real estate) and unsuccessful developer negotiations (the brief flings) that have yet to result in the real-deal relationship have made us stronger than ever.

We haven't forgotten your first question about when the Co-op will find a location. We just don't have a clear answer for you -- because, as it turns out, love is hard! Three wise ladies (well, technically, their mama) once told us "you can't hurry love," so we’re taking our time before we tie the knot.

Even though we haven't gotten hitched yet, we promise you, we're serious about looking. At the beginning of the year, we took stock of our romance landscape. At that time, we had examined over 80 properties, visiting about 20 of them in person. We met with at least 6 developers (think speed dating event managers) and 5 realtors (professional matchmakers), hiring our favorite realtor last fall. (You'll meet him soon. His name is Jake, and he helps keep us emotionally balanced.) And, of course, we got plenty of advice from a wide network of family and friends.

For a while, we felt a little shy about sharing our dating life online. But in true co-op fashion, we want to be open about our search for real commitment, and we want anyone reading this to know our wants and needs and be ready to give that approving thumbs-up when we find a space we really, really love.

So we tucked away our nostalgia for the days when dating wasn't so complicated, put on our big kid pants, and went for it... We made an online dating profile:


We're just giving you the screenshot for now, but rest assured, we'll keep you updated with plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes action from our logged-in account throughout this Dating Spaces blog series. Circle back for a first-date flop story or two, plus photos and interviews with our crew of dating advisors that is the South Philly Food Co-op Real Estate Committee.

Now that we're putting ourselves out there digitally, we hope you'll help us find the one by sharing our dating profile screenshot on Facebook and telling all your friends we’re looking for love. We invite you to email, too, if you want to get more involved with the matchmaking process.

Till next time, internet lovers.
South Philly Food Co-op