It was April of last year when the South Philly Food Co-op announced it had cleared its last financial hurdle and green-lit the opening of its long-awaited store after 10 years of planning. It was expected to begin its final phase of construction on a new building and open later that year.
“It definitely feels surreal,” Goldenberg, treasurer of the co-op’s board, said at the time. “It’s hard to fathom what it’s going to be like to check out my groceries the very first time.”
But alas, more than a year has gone by since then, and the store has yet to open. Last week, SPR caught up with Goldenberg to see when South Philadelphians can expect the store to open.
“We will be open before the end of the calendar year,” Goldenberg told SPR. “We are ready and excited.”
An official opening date has yet to be announced, since the store still has to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the health department, and there’s a few steps that still need to happen before it can be obtained. But financially, according to Goldenberg, the co-op is doing just fine. This is in part due to the creation of something the co-op is calling “basics boxes,” which are pre-packaged boxes of food curated for residents to pick up every two-week order cycle at the Bok Building at 900 Mifflin St. The boxes contain 12-18 “non-perishable staple foods.”
The basics box, along with some paycheck protection program funding, has helped sustain the co-op’s current staff, which consists of a general manager, produce manager, grocery manager, front end manager and a part-time bookkeeper.
The co-op will be hiring for more positions soon.
“We’ve now put out the call for clerks, cashiers in full-time and part-time roles to help with stocking and stuff,” Goldenberg said. “Those folks will come on about a week before opening day.”
The delay in opening, according to Goldenberg, was two-part. At first, the construction was running a bit behind on the store.
But then, “We were six weeks away from wrapping up construction when the COVID shutdown happened,” said Goldenberg. In late March, the state government halted all non-essential construction. The construction ban was lifted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration on May 1.
As of right now, the building is about 90 percent complete, said Goldenberg.
The newly constructed building still has to be outfitted with floors, electric, plumbing and a new storefront door. However, things like the check-out counter, walk in freezer and other refrigeration equipment are all in place.
“We’re really just on that final punch list,” Goldenberg said.
She added that some adjustments, like upping the member-owner equity share price from $200 to $300, had to be made in the wake of the pandemic. The board also decided to add a delivery component to the store since many people are unwilling to leave their house and go to public spaces – especially now with positive cases spiking to levels higher than in April and May.
Before the pandemic started, the co-op considered deliveries to be a component the business would eventually add on.
“But we decided we’d have to do that for day one” because of the pandemic, Goldenberg said.
For more information on the South Philly Food Co-op, including information about how to become a member-owner, visit southphillyfoodcoop.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to Goldenberg as president of the co-op’s board. The error has been corrected.