The Mt. Airy Weavers Way store will be closed for several weeks during the summer in what’s more of a facial reconstruction surgery than a facelift, but officials assure customers that the finished product will be more beautiful than ever.
The $500,000 project will not only open a new health and beauty store, in conjunction with the pet store, but make aesthetic changes to the grocery store as well as functional changes. Among the functional changes is the conversion of the second floor into space for bulk goods, as well as the expansion of the existing dairy, produce and canned goods sections.
Although the grocery store will be closing, the nearby pet store will remain open during the updates.
Updates to the grocery store
Weavers Way General manager Glenn Bergman said updates to the grocery store are scheduled to take place in the summer, when sales are typically down about 20 percent anyway.
The closure is tentatively scheduled from July 16 to August 31. But Bergman said if there are any problems, such as finding that the subfloor needs to be replaced, the project could take longer.
Regardless, the remodeling has been a long time coming. Bergman said the store hasn’t seen any major improvements in the past 20 years.
He also said that while the closure is necessary, it’s almost unheard of in the cooperative community.
“The close for six weeks or seven weeks is a big deal,” he said. “I was at a meeting with other co-ops two weeks ago and… I said ‘by the way, we’re closing Mt. Airy’ and it was total silence. Everyone around the table said that they had never closed during a remodel.”
The Mt. Airy store was Weavers Way’s first location, dating back to 1973. The space used to house a mom and pop-style pharmacy. Light fixtures from the original drug store were actually found in storage and will be placed above the cashier counter, which will be replaced and equipped with scales like the Chestnut Hill store has.
The brick wall behind the cashier counter will also be exposed and painted white, to contrast the dark, wood floors. Bergman said the changes are meant to help preserve the store’s rustic charm and give it a barn-like feel.
In addition to the beautification, the store will also be gaining an eco-friendly recycled wood floor and more efficient freezers that better contain cold air and are less opaque.
After moving the bulk goods department upstairs, various departments will see an increase in size. The meat and fish department, chief financial officer Michael McGeary said, will increase by 50 percent. There will also be an eight-foot cheese case and increased produce section.
And since the second floor will be reserved for bulk foods, McGeary said the co-op has plans to install an electric lift to help customers up and down the stairs. In the future, he said, they’re looking into converting the dumbwaiter next to the meat section into a small elevator, but that will take proper permitting and $35,000 to $45,000.
In the meantime, McGeary said the changes are forecasted to increase store sales by 12 percent. The store has already seen a five percent increase since last year.
While the surplus goods will take over the second floor, the health and beauty products won’t be gone for good.
McGeary said the co-op will knock down the walls between 608—the current pet store—and 610—currently a yoga studio—of Carpenter Lane and create a pet, health and beauty superstore.
The renovations are expected to begin after Pet-a-Palooza on Saturday, June 2.
Bergman said it’s part of a village concept the cooperative is trying to develop on the street.
“We don’t fit into a regular, cookie-cutter grocery store,” he said.
The health and beauty supplies are moving to their own store because they haven’t been particularly successful on the second floor. But Bergman said that’s a phenomenon all too common in any retail industry.
“It’s hard to run a second-floor operation and make it successful,” he said.
In addition to the interior changes, Weavers Way will also add more light fixtures to brighten the street outside the stores at night.
Weavers Way also owns properties at 542, 555 and 557 Carpenter Lane.
In the meantime, Weavers Way will try to accommodate for the closure. The plan is to open a pop-up farmers market in front of 555 Carpenter Lane. Hours will likely be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and there will be two cash registers—one outside and one inside that will accept credit cards.
The market will offer flowers, plants and produce.
Members at the meeting on Sunday also posed the idea of offering a shuttle service to the Chestnut Hill store.
Bergman said, however, that plans are still malleable and may change at this time.