CreekSide Co-op: Opened November 2012

people in line at a deli counter

Of the many startup food co-ops in and around Philadelphia, the furthest along, and the one with which Weavers Way has worked most closely, is CreekSide Co-op, which opened for business in November 2012. Located just outside the city in Elkins Park, CreekSide Co-op was one of the strongest early contenders for Weavers Way’s second location. But even after that was determined to be too far away, Weavers Way remained a close partner. Weavers Way General Manager Glenn Bergman and Communication Director Jon McGoran both sat on CreekSide’s Steering Committee and on the original board of directors, and both have remained closely involved in the new co-op’s development. 

CreekSide’s road to opening had many ups and downs. In part because of its proposed location in the middle of a once-thriving and now moribund retail district, CreekSide enjoyed the enthusiasm of many community members who were at least as excited about community revitalization as about the cooperative business model or organic produce. The upside of this was a fast-growing membership, quickly surpassing 1,000 and reaching 1,500 before opening. But it also meant that many of CreekSide’s most ardent supporters were new to the world of co-ops, both the principles and ideals and the sometimes idiosyncratic requirements. Weavers Way’s guidance and institutional knowledge were invaluable in filling in gaps and avoiding pitfalls. 

As CreekSide navigated its path to opening, the new co-op’s needs evolved and changed, and so did Weavers Way’s assistance. Early on, there was board support in drafting bylaws and other policies, then management help with financial planning, organization, IT, purchasing, graphic design, and communications. As the project approached completion, Weavers Way lent extensive support via Human Resources Manager Jon Roesser, who helped with the general manager search, setting up a job fair, staffing the store, and establishing and implementing employment procedures and policies. 

The vast majority of the work was done by CreekSide’s board, an accomplished and enthusiastic group that worked tirelessly to make their co-op a reality. And there were long stretches during CreekSide’s circuitous route to opening when Weavers Way’s role was minimal. One major setback came in the form of a retroactive rejection of a preapplication approval for a USDA loan guarantee that CreekSide had been told was a sure thing. With pro bono help from Cozen O’Conner, the law firm of CreekSide board member and counsel Adam Silverman, CreekSide appealed the decision and won, but the process delayed their opening by more than a year. 

Even while Weavers Way was on the sidelines, it was comforting for CreekSide to know they had mentors nearby who were ready to help them whenever needed. As the process got back on track and CreekSide regained its momentum, Weavers Way’s involvement increased once again. But it wasn’t until just before opening day that the true importance of that involvement would become apparent. 

Just weeks before the store’s anticipated opening, CreekSide had one more major setback, and this time Weavers Way’s assistance would prove critical. CreekSide’s board had come to the decision that they had to let their general manager go. "We knew it was a crucial time," said CreekSide Co-op Board Vice President Andy Schloss. "But we also knew there were issues we couldn’t ignore, and especially at that critical juncture, we wouldn’t be doing anybody any favors by delaying what needed to be done."

With Schloss stepping in as acting general manager, CreekSide contracted with Weavers Way to provide an increased level of administrative and communications assistance; substantial HR support; and, most importantly, a full-time, on-site store manager, Brittany Baird. 

On Nov. 9, 2012, CreekSide Co-op opened on schedule and right in time for the pre-Thanksgiving rush. There are still many adjustments to be made, but the co-op’s members and neighbors are ecstatic. And the once-empty streets of Elkins Park East are now bustling with shoppers. 

"Having Brittany at the store has been indispensable," said Schloss. "The relationship with the people at Weavers Way and their expertise was instrumental in showing us how to get a co-op off the ground, and now, how to run a store that will continue to galvanize the neighborhood."                                                                               

See other articles from this issue: #164 Jan-Feb 2013