Good news for Center City residents, workers, and anyone who shops downtown: There is now a big supermarket right smack in the middle of Philadelphia.
Mom’s Organic Market, which opens its 18th outpost today at 34 S. 11th St. as part of the rising East Market complex, is bigger than almost any other grocery store within the dense city grid (at 18,000 square feet, it’s around one-and-a-half times the size of the Market Street Trader Joe’s) and it carries more unique items. Per GM Jen Weigel, this Mom’s location has approximately 60,000 SKUs on its shelves; an average grocery store has between 30,000 to 50,000.
All that stuff is relatively easy to shop for. Mom’s purposely spaces its aisles wide apart, and the goods are organized into sections both classic — Produce, Frozen, Snacks, etc. — and nontraditional. Sustainable Insect Protein or Backyard Beekeeping, anyone?
The Maryland-based supermarket chain differentiates itself by following an overarching do-gooder mantra. Employees are paid a fair wage, every food item sold is organic, the in-house restaurant is vegetarian. The core values emblazoned on the wall — “Let go of ego,” “We rise by lifting others,” “Remember your purpose” — are viewed by staff as more than just sound bites.
“The whole company has a sense of mindfulness,” said Weigel, 28, who has worked for Mom’s since 2012 and overseen four new store launches.
All that social justice stuff must come with a high price tag, right? Not necessarily.
Weigel suggested that organic items at places like Acme usually cost much more than what Mom’s sells them for. “We spend a lot of time making sure we’re competitive.” She pointed to the whole bean coffee as an example. Roasted in-house in Baltimore and shipped up frequently, all varieties go for $8.99 a pound (compare that to the common rate of $16 per pound or more for fresh-roasted beans).
Opening weekend will bring additional deals, because the market itself is running “tons of sales,” plus there will be 45 different vendors on site from Friday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10, with many handing out their own coupons and samples.
Here’s a tour of the store, from its many gluten-free sections to its custom decor by local yarnbomb queen Jessie Hemmons (aka Ishknits).
The produce section offers around 300 different organic fruits and vegetables at any given time. There’s also an area to grind your own nut butters, including honey-roasted peanut, almond, sunflower and cashew.
The wide aisles make sure you don’t bump butts with a fellow shopper while leaning down to get something from the bottom shelf, and generally help keep the store from feeling crowded. “Even when we’re super busy, it doesn’t have that hectic supermarket feeling,” said Weigel.
In addition to eight or so varietals of organic, free-trade roasted coffee, Mom’s also offers green beans for those who like to roast their own. A shelf full of Philly Fair Trade Roasters beans provides another local option.
Store managers get to make a trip out to Chambersburg to visit the Trickling Springs farm, which bottles the Mom house brand milk. “They’re the happiest cows you’ve ever seen,” Weigel said. She professed that the chocolate version is so rich she sometimes cuts it with plain milk so it’s less like a dessert.
There’s also a huge array of nondairy milk. Whether you prefer your milk made from almond, soy, coconut, macademia, cashew or banana (!), Mom’s has several options to choose from.
The custom yarnbomb art piece by Ishknits hangs over the customer service desk at the far end of the store.
Gluten-free products are spread throughout the aisles, but there are also two dedicated sections: four sets of dry goods shelves, stocked top-to-bottom with items like flour, pasta and pretzels; and four doors of frozen goods with options like cauliflower-crust pizza.
Yep, you can buy crunchy crickets by the ounce. But right next to the sustainable insects is a shelf of pork rinds. Above that is vegan jerky, and across the way is a big selection of potato chips. Mom’s enables all kinds of snacking.
Mom’s dedicates a section to everything you need for backyard beekeeping, from bodysuits to hives to honey harvesting tools.
Maple syrup is another product sold under the Mom’s label, as are olive oil, ice cream, vitamins, protein powder, tinctures and chocolate.
The “Wellness” section holds not only things you might find in a CVS except organic (beauty products, shampoo, a giant array of vitamins), but also a collection of apparel. “Cotton is a dirty industry,” said Wellness section manager Alexandra Wood. “We only sell Global Organic Textile Standard-certified clothing.” Also on offer are mats from JadeYoga in Conshohocken, which plants a tree for each one sold.
Booze offerings include six beers on tap from local breweries like Evil Genius, 52 feet of bottled and canned beer, and a cabinet full of wines. Getting it ready gave Weigel a crash course in PA liquor law. “Licensing for this in Philadelphia is not easy!” So she’s officially been indoctrinated.
Naked Lunch has its own separate entrance, and is open at 8 a.m. for breakfast. That menu is offered through 10:30 a.m., and then it switches to bowls, soups, salads and specialties like stuffed sweet potato and cauliflower steaks for lunch and dinner, served through 8 p.m.
One part of the glass exterior — which of course everyone glances at to see their reflection when they walk by — features a pair of glasses with the self-empowering message “Love what you see.”
So far, Weigel has hired 75 employees, but is looking to add around 25 more (info is available online). Mom’s Organic Market Center City is open 8 a.m. through 9 p.m. daily. There is a parking garage beneath the store.