After 10 years of organizing, the day has finally come. The South Philly Food Co-op finally became a reality Wednesday afternoon as the store opened its doors to customers at noon.
“I am ecstatic we are opening after 10 years of hard work and dedication,” said Lori Burge, general manager of South Philly Food Co-op. “Having an incredible community of friends, board members, partners, volunteers and staff who have helped us every step of the way makes opening a grocery co-op during a global pandemic extremely rewarding and showcases the importance of how co-ops benefit neighborhoods.”
Burge told SPR that passersby had been peeking inside all week as the staff set up the store.
“Now they can finally come inside,” she said.
The store was on the cusp of opening back in March, but all construction in the city was halted when the building was just weeks from being completed.
“It’s so exhilarating to get to this point after all the ups and downs along the way,” said Burge.
Located at 2031 S. Juniper St., the 3,300-square-foot store’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. The co-op will offer products from more than 20 hyper-local vendors such as Philly Fair Trade Roasters with plans on expanding its portfolio of local makers in the coming months. Additionally, the store will feature a vast selection of accessible, fresh products, including seasonal, organic produce from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op, pasture-raised meats like ground beef from Stryker Farm, fresh fish like Chilean Salmon from family-owned Samuels Seafood Co and local dairy-farmed cheeses like Calkins Creamery Noblette Brie from Third Wheel Cheese Company. Additionally, the store will have a buy-in-bulk section featuring more than 50 items, including beans, flour, granola and nuts. The buy-in-bulk section items will be prepackaged for the duration of the COVID pandemic to minimize contact among customers.
In the days before the opening, members of the Kensington Community Food Co-op helped out with the opening of the South Philly co-op. Burge said all the co-ops in the region regularly have meetings with one another about every other month.
The store will soon be accepting SNAP benefits and currently has no timetable to accept WIC grants, but “it’s something we’re committed to figuring out” eventually, Burge said. “Making sure the entire community has access to our co-op is very important to us.”
Furthermore, in the weeks before opening, the co-op surpassed its opening-day goal of having 1,400 member-owners. At the time SPR last spoke to Burge, the co-op had reached 1,428 member-owners.
Member-ownership of South Philly Food Co-op comes with exclusive perks such as member sales, discount days and exclusive access to the Shop South Philly program. The equity attached to member-ownership is $300 and may be divided in as many as 12 installments. Those without these means are invited to join SPFC through their Community Equity Fund. Although South Philly Food Co-op is member-based, anyone is welcomed to shop the store.
The store will have an emphasis on natural organic products and foods that are locally grown “wherever possible,” Burge said.
The co-op maintains that it will enforce all CDC guidelines, which includes limiting the number of shoppers allowed in the store at one time to 12, installing social distancing markers around the store as well as Plexiglas barriers, and daily cleansing and sanitization. The store will also reserve Wednesdays between 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for at-risk shoppers only. Local delivery will also be available through a partnership with Bloc Delivery. A curbside pickup program will be initiated in the coming weeks. In keeping with the co-op principles of fair treatment of workers, the co-op says it will provide hazard pay to all employees as well as paid time off that they can use in case anyone has to go into quarantine.
To become a member-owner at the South Philly Food Co-op, visit southphillyfood.coop/join.
Burge said the co-op is not about making a profit. Rather, its ultimate goal is to keep residents’ grocery dollars in the neighborhood as opposed to sending them to big corporations, and “meeting the needs of the community,” she said. “It’s all about the people.”
View photos of inside the store as it was being prepared to open below: