What Is a Co-op?

Cooperatives are unique businesses that are owned by the people who use their services. So, in our case, we're a market that's owned by people who shop here. While not everyone who shops our stores is a member, we wouldn't be here without those who are. Members make the Co-op possible, shaping what we do and linking us directly and meaningfully to our community.

Our name, Weavers Way, was selected as an homage to a collective of 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale, England, who, in 1844, got together to collectively purchase food. The Rochdale Pioneers weren’t the first group to form a buying co-op, but they were the first to make their co-op succeed and endure. To avoid the mistakes made by earlier cooperative societies and to help others, they developed a list of operating principles governing their organization. This list formed the basis for what are now known as the International Co-op Principles, which still guide us in our efforts today.

As a food co-op, we stand out from traditional grocery stores because we prioritize planet and people. For more about what makes co-ops special, check out this short video created by the National Cooperative Grocers Association, of which we are part.

The Local Story

Philadelphia is a hotbed of cooperative activity! In fact, we're home to the longest running cooperative, The Philadelphia Contributionship mutual insurance company, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1752.

The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA), founded in 2012, is dedicated to supporting democratically organized businesses and growing the cooperative economy in multiple areas. You can learn more about PACA at www.philadelphia.coop.

In addition to Weavers Way, other food co-ops operating in the Delaware Valley include:

Co-op FAQs from the National Cooperative Grocers

How can I distinguish a co-op from other organizations?
A co-op is a business, usually incorporated, that sells goods and services. It is not a charitable organization or a social service agency.

Who benefits from the co-op’s existence?
A co-op exists primarily for the benefit of its members. Many co-ops also support other parts of the community through various programs and philanthropic activities as part of their commitment to cooperative values and principles.

Who controls a co-op?
In a cooperative, members democratically control the direction of the business. In most co-ops each member gets one vote. Members elect a board of directors to monitor the business, set goals and hire management to operate their business. Ultimately, the board is accountable to the members for its decisions.

What motivates people to form a co-op?
In private or stockholder-owned businesses, individuals invest to earn a financial return. In a co-op, individuals are motivated by a shared need for certain products or services. By joining together, members gain access to products, services or markets not otherwise available to them. In other words, when forming a co-op members are motivated to become co-owners of the business primarily so that their mutual needs can be met. And co-ops return financial gains to their members, whether through discounts, lower costs or patronage refunds. People join existing co-ops for a variety of reasons. Whether it is the commitment to community, the democratic approach to business, the desire to be part of a business that is locally owned or something else “uniquely co-op” that appeals, anyone can join a cooperative!

Interested in Forming a Co-op?

The Food Co-op Initiative has a very comprehensive site, with tools to help you step-by-step through the entire process of becoming a co-op.