Weavers Way eyes Germantown for a big new grocery store, the co-op’s fourth

The member-supported supermarket’s Mt. Airy flagship is overwhelmed by demand.

Produce on display at one of the Weavers Way grocery stores

Produce on display at one of the Weavers Way grocery stores

Facebook / Weavers Way

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Philadelphia’s popular Weavers Way Co-op is hoping to open a new grocery store in Germantown, with negotiations underway for a 5,000-sq.-ft. retail storefront. This will be the co-op’s fourth location — if it can secure funding.

“It could go either way,” said general manager Jon Roesser. “I’m optimistic. I want to make it happen, and I believe it can happen. But there’s too many things that could still go wrong.”

Roesser wouldn’t share where the actual building is, saying discussions with the landlord are still in the “infancy phase.” If it comes through, he estimates the project will cost Weavers Way about $2 million.

The collectively owned, member-supported supermarket opened its first location in 1972, in Mt. Airy. Since then, it has expanded. Weavers Way now operates stores in Chestnut Hill and Ambler, making it the only grocery co-op in the city with multiple locations. Other similar organizations in Philadelphia include Mariposa in West Philly, the Kensington Community Food Co-op, and the South Philly Food Co-op.

Weavers Way’s Germantown outpost would be its first new spot in four years.

Members ask for new locations all the time, said Roesser, who runs the nonprofit in collaboration with a board of directors and the co-op’s members, who pay a fee for partial ownership. They’ve gotten requests to open in various Philly neighborhoods, like Old City, and in other towns, like Collingswood, N.J., and Media, Pa.

“We love WW Co-op,” reads a Facebook review from Julia Brino Watt. “From the nourishing foods, local produce, $4 Friday nights, environment-loving products and a great staff.  I’m so thankful to have this so close. It’s everything we believe in.”

Weavers Way learned the hard way to proceed with caution. A store opened in West Oak Lane in 2008, then shuttered after three years. Roesser attributes the closure to a lack of active members in that neighborhood.

That’s why Germantown makes sense. More than half of Weavers Way’s nearly 11,000 member households live in the areas that already have stores: Mount Airy, Ambler and Chestnut Hill. The neighborhood with the next highest number? Germantown, with 1,018 households financially supporting Weavers Way. That’s about 10% of the co-op’s members.

“Any expansion we would do would be about meeting member needs,” Roesser said. “It really comes down to, could we make it work financially and raise the necessary capital to finance something like this?”

Right now, he said many Germantown members visit the Mt. Airy location, since it’s the closest store to their neighborhood. Problem is, it’s also Weavers Way’s smallest location, and “already well beyond capacity,” Roesser said.

The potential new storefront boasts a loading dock, a freight elevator, and ample stockroom space, Roesser wrote in an email to current members. It also has 13 parking spots outside. The store would be larger than Weavers Way’s Chestnut Hill location, but smaller than Ambler, and would likely be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Roesser presented the idea to members via a virtual meeting, and said he got generally positive feedback. Negotiations will continue with the landlord, and co-op leadership will decide whether it’s worth seeking the $2 million in funding they’ll need to open. He expects to know the site’s fate by the end of the year.

“It’s in the right location, it’s the right size, it has the right amenities,” Roesser said. “We need to give it a really hard look and see if we’re ready to move now. It does check a lot of our boxes.”

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