Weavers Way details five-year plan for expansion, increased community involvement

Over the next five years, community members will see an expanded Weavers Way. After hitting mile markers like the 2010 opening of a Chestnut Hill store, a major remodeling of the Mt. Airy store after 20 years and the opening of a new wellness store, Weavers Way Co-op is hashing out a plan to carry them through 2018.

The plan entails five main focuses — expansion, internal operations, member engagement, farms and community.

Fran Johnston, co-op member and leadership consultant at Telleos Leadership Institute, led a nine-month research period for the plan and said the focuses were born out of member, community and co-op management feedback.

“Every organization needs a direction, a plan that helps them make decisions, imagine the future,” she said. “And then that plan then guides their choices.”

Weavers Way marketing director, Rebecca Torpie, said the five-pronged plan is meant to direct the co-op in the coming years.

‘Exploring’ possibilities for expansion

Due to debt from the 2010 opening of the Chestnut Hill store, Torpie said a brick-and-mortar expansion would take time, but that the co-op is gauging community interest and exploring various options.

The possibilities, she said, include options like a third store in Northwest Philadelphia, a pharmacy, another wellness store in Chestnut Hill or expanding the types of products that are offered at the stores.

During a brainstorming session at the general membership meeting on Sunday, a co-op member even suggested a Weavers Way hardware store.

Johnston said in a presentation to members Sunday that the co-op will engage in a market study to see what would work best, as well as survey community members and local businesses when it comes to what they’d like to see.

“Notice the word ‘explore,'” she said, pointing to the word on a projection during the presentation. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it tomorrow.”

Connections to Weavers Way farm

Another main focal point in the five-year plan is the sustainability of the co-op’s farm.

Torpie said that in terms of profit the 5.5 acres of farmland, the largest within the city of Philadelphia, hasn’t been doing well in recent years. Members emphasized the importance of keeping it.

“People had this emotional connection to the farms and they didn’t want to let them go,” she said. “We may not be making a profit off it but…it provides a soft contribution. It’s an emotional and psychological thing.”

To remedy the problem, Johnston said the co-op is seeking ways to get members more involved in volunteering at the farm, increasing revenue or even in asking for community support.

Meanwhile, the co-op also seeks to increase membership, working members and their engagement with the community.

Torpie also mentioned the the co-op is looking into implementing a tier system for working members — those who participate mor will see higher returns.

Community involvment

The five-year plan’s focus of community is also of particular importance.

Part of the group’s mission, Johnston explained, is to “build a community around food” by supporting local co-op openings.

Lastly, the co-op plans on looking into any improvements that need to be made on internal operations.

Johnston said this means assessing what the co-op can do to run better in regards to communications, general management structure and better incorporating its principles into daily operations.

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