Definitions

co-op'tation

Weavers Way (co-op)

Weavers Way is a member-owned retail cooperative in Philadelphia's West Mt. Airy section. Founded in 1973, Weavers Way Co-op was formed as a neighborhood buying club in a church basement. Since its incorporation, it has grown to 3,000 member households, with annual sales of more than $6 million. After moving to its current location at 559 Carpenter Lane, Weavers Way expanded, purchasing the adjacent building and consolidating the two buildings. Subsequent expansions included the purchase of two buildings across the street, which include a retail pet supply store, offices, meeting space, and a residential rental unit. There is also a warehouse several miles away in East Germantown. Weavers Way has participated in such events and organizations as Mt. Airy Day, Mt. Airy ArtJam, Mt. Airy YouthWorks, Mt. Airy Business Association, and Mt. Airy USA (MAUSA).

Community activities

Weavers Way is also active in the community in other ways. The Marketplace Program partners with area elementary schools to teach students about health, nutrition, business and cooperation. Under supervision of school and Co-op staffers, students choose healthy snacks to buy from the Co-op at cost, decide on a mark-up, then package items like cheese breadsticks, cakes and pickles to sell alongside prepackaged goods like locally-produced chocolate milk. At the end of the year, the students decide on worthy causes for the proceeds. Recent recipients have included the Red Cross, the Cancer Society, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the African Children's Fund, AIDS, Philabundance and the HEIFER project. The program started with the C. W. Henry School across the street and has since expanded to include five schools.

The Co-op's Mort Brooks Memorial Organic Farm is an urban intensive organic farm a few miles from Weavers Way at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. Named after a member who was instrumental to the Co-op’s early success, the Mort Brooks Memorial Farm was founded in 2000. Since then, the harvest and the participation of students and volunteers has grown each year, as has the farm itself, which now occupies three-quarters of an acre and has a full-time horticulturalist.

Scandal

A bookkeeping scandal in 2002 nearly bankrupted the co-op - the co-op's bookkeeper had been concealing evidence that the co-op was losing money. Criminal charges against the bookkeeper were later settled, and there was no evidence that the bookkeeper personally used co-op funds or otherwise benefited from her mismanagement of the co-op's finances. The scandal exposed the need for the co-op to modernize and professionalize its practices, which has been done.

Growth

Over the last few years, Weavers Way has enjoyed growth in sales and in the bottom line. For the second year in a row (as of 2007), the co-op has achieved enough of a profit to bolster its capital reserves while at the same time distributing cash rebates to its members. While Weavers Way remains one of the few co-ops with a work requirement for all members, nonmembers are allowed to shop, although at a higher mark-up. Weavers Way's continued growth and success have reinvigorated plans to expand to a second, larger location, and in the wake of a successful market study, locations for such expansion are being studied.

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