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Weavers Way Officials Talk Past Successes, Future Plans

The co-op held its annual fall membership meeting Sunday.

officials told members at a fall membership meeting Sunday that the co-op had a stellar 2011 and plans on expanding its store in the near future.

The new Chestnut Hill store, which opened in 2010, continues to account for a large part of that success, with gross sales exceeding estimates in its first year by about $2 million.

One potential shadow on the horizon for the co-op, officials said, is the anticipated emergence of a competitor to the Chestnut Hill location at the old Magarity Ford dealership at 8200 Germantown Ave. in the next two years. But Board President David Woo said Weavers Way “will weather the opening of the Fresh Market chain store,” and said he anticipated members will continue to use the co-op location in Chestnut Hill.

The news was received by a modest group of co-op members, staff, and board members at the general membership meeting on Sunday at the . Munching fresh salad and vegan chili, the group listened to a series of reports by Woo, General Manager Glenn Bergman, Chief Financial Officer Michael McGeary and Henry Got Crops! Farm Educator Clare Hyre.

Woo said Weavers Way now counts 5,000 households as members—a record high that is double the number of members from two years ago.

General Manager Glenn Bergman presented a list of co-op accomplishments since its last general membership meeting in May 2011. They ranged from the significant—the co-op finished the last fiscal year with net income—to the whimsical.

"There are now bees on the roof at the Chestnut Hill store,” he said, “and we are selling the resulting honey downstairs.”

Bergman also said that after noticing that the co-op had sold a record 1,700 pounds of chicken feed in just six weeks, beginning in September, members have decided to form a chicken committee to investigate “the need to change the city code about having chickens in the backyard.”

Other news included the closing of the Weavers Way Ogontz location in West Oak Lane and . The Ogontz store finished the year with a $96,000 loss.

CFO Michael McGeary, who began in that position in July 2011, said the co-op made $14.8 million worth of sales last fiscal year—the highest in the coop’s history. That figure was fairly evenly split between the two larger stores, with Mt. Airy bringing in $6.9 million and Chestnut Hill recording $7.7 million. The West Oak Lane store brought in $199,466.

Overall, the coop reported a gross profit of 36 percent, and is on track to pay back on member loans borrowed for the Chestnut Hill expansion, which come due during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

With the Chestnut Hill store outselling its projections, expansion of its refrigeration and freezer section is needed, and the Mt. Airy location is due for renovation. Plans include building an addition to the back of the Chestnut Hill store, and increasing the selling space in the front end of the Mt. Airy store. A new floor and new lighting could be added to the Mt. Airy branch as well.

Bergman also spoke about the efforts to develop the Weavers Way urban farming programs.

“The effect of our farms on education is very important,” he said, “but we have learned that the (Henry Got Crops) CSA with Saul School doesn’t work unless we have an educator.”

Hyre, who works part-time as that farm educator with W.B. Saul students to run the Henry Got Crops! program, said she runs seven classes with 20 students each per week.

The students “learn hands-on farming skills, leadership, teamwork, marketing and gain an understanding of health and sustainable and local food,” she said.

With the help of Weavers Way, Saul has transformed its modest vegetable garden into a working three-acre farm, which provides vegetables to members of its community-sustained agriculture (CSA) program and to its weekly farm stand in the summer. 

With 85 percent of the farm budget going to salary and with grant income at an all-time low for the program, Bergman said there are plans to run the first fundraising appeal for the farm education program.

Anyone interested in touring the three Weavers Way farms can do so this Saturday from 3 to 5:15 p.m., by sending an email to rachel@weaversway.coop.

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