Weavers Way Ambler officially opened last month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the culmination of years of activism by the Ambler Food Co-op, avid support of local officials and Weavers Way members and hard work by Weavers Way staff, managers and the Board of Directors.
“I think perhaps to the casual passerby, this might look like the official dedication of a grocery store,” said Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser at the ceremony Oct. 27. “But the truth is that this is the official dedication of the manifestation of so much hard work in cooperative economics.”
“The members of the Ambler Food Co-op, which is now part of Weavers Way, really do represent the cooperative model at its finest,” he continued. “These are neighbors who identified a common need and pooled their resources to meet that need. Rather than wait for some out-of-town chain to come along and give them a grocery store, they said, ‘Our town needs a grocery store. Let’s make it happen ourselves.’ And that’s what they did, and that’s what we have.”
Roesser thanked the lenders who helped provide funding for the $4.3 million project — PNC Bank, The Reinvestment Fund, Ambler Savings Bank, the Montgomery County Development Corp., and especially the more than 300 Weavers Way members who provided the single largest source of financing with $1.5 million in member loans.
Chris Hill, president of the Weavers Way Board of Directors, also lauded the people of Ambler for their ability to coalesce around a community need. Referring to the grassroots efforts that led to the restoration of the Ambler Theater in 2007, he said, “I feel like Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, the other community partners in this enterprise, have a lot to learn from you guys.”
Hill and Ambler Store Manager Kathryn Worley then teamed up on the giant prop scissors to snip the giant red ribbon. Looking on as honored guests and official witnesses were were state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, all three Montgomery County commissioners — Joe Gale, Valerie Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence — Ambler Mayor Jeanne Sorg, members of the Ambler Borough Council, former AFC President Kathleen Casey and Co-op Board members.
Worley said she was pleased with the turnout and the support the store has received from the community.
“We’ve had people come in, and they’re crying, because they’re so excited that the store finally opened,” she said. “We’ve already made lots of new friends, and I’m just so happy to be here.”
Lawrence, vice chair of the board of commissioners, lives in Plymouth Township, but plans to visit the store regularly. “I think this is fantastic for Ambler and the residents of Ambler, but also for Montgomery County,” he said. “I know this is desperately needed here, so I’m glad the county could be a part of making this happen.”
Bernadette Dougherty, an Ambler resident and former AFC outreach coordinator, took note of the effort that made the new location a reality. “You know that expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? Well, this took a village and a half,” she said. “The folks from Ambler Food Co-op, and the people from Weavers Way formed such a wonderful village, and got this beautiful store opened. And when people come in today and they start to clap, you know that we did a good job.”
The store, Weavers Way’s third, opened for business Oct. 11; the building at 217 E. Butler Ave. formerly housed a Bottom Dollar discount grocer. Construction, managed by Delaware County builder W.S. Cumby, began in May.
The 11,000-square-foot store — bigger than both Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill combined —features a café area, an expanded prepared foods kitchen and full-service meat and seafood department. The extensive bulk-food, pet-supply and health-and-wellness sections are housed within the main store. But perhaps its most unique aspect, aside from its size, is a footprint that includes 85 parking spaces — something Weavers Way shoppers will just have to get used to.