FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA, PA, Feb. 28, 2017 — With the approval of a partnership agreement this month, Ambler Food Co-op members moved a step closer to becoming part of Weavers Way — and to welcoming a Weavers Way Co-op store to town.
The vote, held Sunday, Feb. 19, at the AFC general membership meeting in Ambler Borough Hall, was greeted with cheers and toasted with champagne. It authorized the AFC board to transfer more than 500 member-owners to the Weavers Way rolls and consolidated an already avid support base for the new store, Weavers Way's third and its first outside Northwest Philadelphia.
Just a few days before the Ambler vote, Weavers Way signed off on a sublease with Aldi Corp. for the building itself, at 217 E. Butler Ave., a former Bottom Dollar store.
Weavers Way Ambler is expected to open its doors in July, with a grand opening after Labor Day.
“With 150 people in the room, this partnership agreement was enthusiastically ratified because Ambler members don’t want just any store — they want a store that will have deep roots in the community, led by people who know how to run a successful operation,” said Ambler Food Co-op President Kathleen Casey. “Weavers Way has the experience needed to make this project a success and the commitment to the cooperative values that we’ve been on the ground talking about for five years now."
"It is a win-win, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Casey said,
"We're overjoyed to welcome Ambler Co-op to the Weavers Way Co-op family," said Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser. "We've secured the best possible building in the best possible community for a third Weavers Way store. Our partnership with the Ambler Food Co-op provides us with a core base of members on which to build."
The partnership agreement goes into effect once Weavers Way secures commitments for some $2.3 million in commercial loans for construction and equipment.
Through its "Together We Grow" campaign last fall, Weavers Way has already raised $1.5 million in loans from its member-owners, including many from the Ambler organization. The Co-op is also applying for a $250,000 low-interest loan through the Montgomery County Opportunity Loan Program.
Meanwhile, with design work by Philadelphia architectural firm Strada LLC nearly complete, Roesser said Project Manager Heather Carb expects to kick off the construction-bidding process by issuing request-for-proposal documents at the beginning of March. "Several firms have expressed interest in getting the RFP, and they've toured the site and building already," Roesser said. "In addition to cost, we'll be taking into account when they can start and how long they will take."
"The next phase I'm focusing on is the produce bins," Carb said. "We're hoping to get them custom-made by some Ambler volunteers. . . . There's so much energy around this whole project. It will be good to actually start working on site in Ambler."
The Co-op has already ruled out seeking LEED "green" building certification, Roesser noted, saying, "We had Strada look into it, but the formal certification is so expensive. We're already 'recycling' a used building, and you can be assured we're paying close attention to waste management and other sustainability issues — if we didn't, the membership would revolt, not to mention the staff."
At 10,000 square feet of retail, the Ambler location is larger than Weavers Way's current Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill stores combined. Unlike those locations, it will house health and beauty departments and pet supplies under the same roof, and offer expanded prepared-food options and café seating. About 45 hires are anticipated for the new store, with recruiting for some Ambler positions already under way.
AFC organizers started working to establish a food co-op in Ambler in 2012, engaging residents of the borough of about 6,500 as well as the surrounding townships. Their efforts took on additional urgency when the Bottom Dollar, Ambler's only food store, closed in 2014 after just a year in operation. The local Acme, considered by many to have been the meet-and-greet heart of the borough for decades, closed in 2009.
"We are delighted by the prospect of bringing a needed full-service grocer with locally sourced food to our downtown," said Ambler Mayor Jeanne Sorg. "In Ambler, we pride ourselves on being a walkable community where our residents can get what they need right here in town. Weavers Way will fit very well with our two member-owned theaters, packed restaurants and retail shopping that serve not only our borough residents but all of the neighboring communities."
About Weavers Way: "The Co-op" has its roots in a buying club started in 1973 in Philadelphia's West Mt. Airy neighborhood. The 559 Carpenter Lane location was the Co-op's only full-service grocery store until 2010, when Weavers Way Chestnut Hill opened at 8424 Germantown Ave. Weavers Way also has standalone wellness-and-beauty specialty shops in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, a pet supply store in Mt. Airy and a 2.5-acre urban farming operation spanning two sites in the Germantown and Roxborough neighborhoods. Revenues for the stores topped $21 million in fiscal 2016.
A consumer cooperative, Weavers Way is owned by its 6,300 active member households. Anyone can shop at the "Community-owned, open to all" Weavers Way stores, although members enjoy special deals and discounts and can participate in Co-op governance. Visit www.weaversway.coop for more information.
About Ambler Food Co-op: A group of dedicated and hardworking neighbors who pursued a vision of a community-owned and -operated grocery store in downtown Ambler, PA, AFC is now partnering with Weavers Way to open a brick-and-mortar store. Visit www.amblerfoodcoop.org for more information.