Weavers Way Ambler to Open Doors; Official Celebration Oct. 27-29


PHILADELPHIA, PA, Oct. 4, 2017 — After five years of advocacy, collaboration and planning and 22 intense weeks of construction, Weavers Way Co-op is opening its doors in Ambler this month

While the date of the "soft" opening is still a moving target, the new full-service grocery store is expected to be up and running at full cooperative strength well before the weekend-long Grand Opening Celebration Oct. 27-29.

"We'll get this done," said Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser. "Then we'll have plenty of time to work out all those new-store kinks before the holiday season, when the mad rush really begins."

Weavers Way is consumer-owned and open to all, and popular for its high-quality products, with an emphasis on sustainable, local and organic. The building, a former Bottom Dollar at 217 E. Butler Ave. in the Montgomery County borough, is being renovated at a cost of $1.7 million. Final setup and shelf-stocking is expected to continue into the second week of October. Store hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

At 11,000 square feet of retail space, the store — the Co-op's third and its first ever outside Northwest Philadelphia — is larger than both of Weavers Way's other locations combined. It features an expanded prepared-food kitchen and a cafe area to complement it, and a full-service meat and seafood department, along with the Co-op's well-regarded bakery, cheese, produce and grocery offerings.

Like the Mt. Airy store, Ambler has large bulk-foods and pet-supply sections. Like both Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, it boasts an extensive selection of wellness, health and cruelty-free beauty products. Unlike either of the Philadelphia stores, however, the new Ambler location has parking — 85 spaces — and a loading dock.

The grand opening celebration kicks off Friday, Oct. 27, with a 5 p.m. ribbon-cutting, followed by cake and other refreshments and live music. Cake will be cut simultaneously at Weavers Way Mt. Airy and Weavers Way Chestnut Hill as well.

Saturday and Sunday will be chock-a-block with sampling, tastings, demonstrations, fun-and-games and live music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The emphasis will be on kids' and family activities Saturday, the day of Ambler's annual Halloween parade, and on Weavers Way vendors on Sunday, with grilling, beer-tasting, raffles and more sampling and giveaways.

The three-day celebration coincides with Weavers Way Member Appreciation Days, with Co-op members getting an extra 5% off their purchases at all the stores.

The new Co-op fills a gap for Ambler, which has been without a grocery store since Bottom Dollar closed in 2014 after only one year in operation. Weavers Way negotiated a lease on the empty building and began renovations in May 2017.

While the store represents a major extension of Weavers Way's brand and the cooperative economic model, it also is the culmination of a half-decade of hard work by the dedicated members of the Ambler Food Co-op.

AFC organizers started working to establish a food co-op in 2012, engaging residents of the Montgomery County borough of about 6,500 as well as the surrounding area.

“A store that is cooperatively owned by area residents and operated by a successful grocer like Weavers Way Co-op is a powerful approach to fulfilling the needs of the community and creating a sustainable business that will serve many,” said former AFC president Kathleen Casey.

In February, Ambler Food Co-op members overwhelmingly approved a partnership agreement to become Weavers Way members. Long before the store became a reality, "The people of Ambler made Weavers Way part of their community," Roesser said. "Their sense of grassroots community building is at the very heart of the cooperative movement."

The store will employ about 45 staffers, with annual revenues anticipated at $8 million. Weavers Way fiscal 2017 sales topped $21 million for the current locations.

Construction and expenses for opening the Ambler store, such as equipment and initial staffing and stocking, was financed by $1.5 million in loans from Co-op members, including many from the Ambler organization, plus $2.3 million in commercial loans from PNC, the Reinvestment Fund and Ambler Savings Bank. The Montgomery County Development Corp. also approved a $250,000 low-interest loan for the project.

Design work was by Philadelphia architectural firm Strada LLC and construction was managed by Delaware County builder W.S. Cumby. "This project was a true collaborative effort between Strada and Cumby, who worked with the Co-op every step of the way," Roesser said. "For sure we experienced a few delays, but nothing out of the ordinary for a project of this scope."

Weavers Way members cooperatively own their stores with an investment of "member equity" of up to $400 per household. Membership is open to all, and each member household — more than 7,500 as of October 2017, including more than 500 former AFC members— can vote its share in elections for the Co-op's governing Board of Directors.

The original store, at Greene Street and Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy, has its roots in a buying club started in 1973. The Co-op opened its second full-service store in 2010 in Chestnut Hill, in the old Caruso's Market. Weavers Way also has two standalone wellness-and-beauty specialty shops and a pet-supply store at the current locations, and urban farms spanning two sites and 6.5 acres in the Germantown and Roxborough neighborhoods.

Visit the Weavers Way website at www.weaversway.coop.