Case Study: Weaver’s Way Supports Startup

Case Study: Weaver’s Way Supports Startup

Columinate | 05-30-2009

Creekside-chart-smallWeaver’s Way
Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1973
Number of members: 3,500
Retail square footage: Two stores are 3,000 and 600, with another slated to open this summer at 6,700

Creekside Co-op
Philadelphia, PA:
Founded: To open 2010
Number of members: 1,000
Retail square footage: 7,500

Glenn Bergman believes there’s a pent-up opportunity to grow the market for natural food co-ops in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania. Bergman is the general manager at Weaver’s Way and he hears from people all the time who would love to have a food co-op in their community. Weaver’s Way is also quite active in seeking ways to expand their existing co-op ­locations.

When the invitation to expand Weaver’s Way into the revitalization efforts of the Elkins Park neighborhood arose, the community wanted the co-op to take over the closing grocery store, but Weaver’s Way was already planning for a development in another part of town.

Weaver’s Way helped the community form a steering committee, and it was given ongoing assistance by John McGoran, Weaver’s Way communication director, Bergman, and some Weaver’s Way board members. Every meeting they held had huge attendance.

Weaver’s Way continued its involvement as the group became the Creekside Co-op. Weaver’s Way supported the startup by paying for its market study and doing mailings in the community. They connected Creekside members with expansion consultants and organizations, including Food Co-op500, CDS Consulting Co-op and the National Co-op Grocers Association (NCGA). They helped them find someone to buy the building and assisted with the lease, bylaws and co-op incorporation. They encouraged people to become members of Creekside, and continued to lend the talents of McGoran to the group. Creekside is on track to open January of 2010 in a 7,500 square foot store.

Not only has Weaver’s Way demonstrated a strong commitment to Creekside, their continued support is remarkable given that they will soon be opening another store in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. They’ll be opening a 6,700 square foot store this summer. So why do they do it when they have their own development project? What can other cooperators take away from leading involvement in a local startup?

“We do it because Weaver’s Way exists to provide services to members that strengthen the local economy and champions the co-op model,” Bergman said. He believes in doing it because it’s what co-ops are supposed to do. However, that doesn’t mean it has always been easy for their co-op to participate at that level. It involved some significant time investment from key board members and staff who are already tapped out, especially given their own co-op’s expansion plans.

Bergman recognized Weaver’s Way contribution as important and necessary, but thinks there has to be a more sustainable approach for existing co-ops to support long term co-op development. “We’re not doing enough as a sector to address the communities that have expressed interest in having a co-op. For every Creekside Co-op, there are five groups right behind them.”

Bergman thinks that part of the solution is getting stakeholders like financial institutions and other vendors co-ops do business with to support the food co-ops activities in creating jobs, the local economy, and cooperation. “What Creekside is doing is very exciting, very professional, and bringing a good energy to the community. I know it will be successful,” he said.

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