Board Corner: Weavers Way Ambler: Right Store, Right Stuff

Chris Hill, Weavers Way Board President

More than four years ago, the Weavers Way board held a retreat at the Lutheran Seminary. The topic at that February session was Co-op expansion – i.e., a third store. Board and staff leadership were there, including Jon Roesser, who was still, at that time, the human resources director. 

Our co-op consultant facilitator took us through a process of examining the options, from Roxborough and Germantown to South Philly and Ambler. Even back then, Ambler emerged as the top choice:

  • A community already hungry for a food cooperative.
  • A community with a walkable downtown, a growing population and an engaged citizenry.
  • A market area very friendly to the idea of natural and organic foods.
  • A location close to our existing Chestnut Hill market area.

In fact, the Board’s interest in Ambler goes back even further than that. A year before, the National Cooperative Grocers, to which we belong, urged us to consider taking on a start-up co-op in the region as our third store. The rationale? Existing co-ops can add a new store in a year or two. Startups often take over seven years to get up and running, and often with a store that is not large enough to be financially strong.

The Board responded positively  to this argument. We were interested in expanding the cooperative economy in our region – opening stores with a commitment to local farmers, local businesses and local communities, so that those market niches wouldn’t be filled by national or international chains with no real commitment to our region. We were also interested in creating better jobs, with better benefits, for people in our communities.

Once the Board and staff reached a consensus that Ambler would be the best next step in our growth, we began a series of conversations with the Ambler Co-op leadership, and together we eventually began looking for building space in downtown Ambler.

After exploring two promising locations — and experiencing lots of anxiety and heartburn — we finally settled on the empty Bottom Dollar store at 217 E. Butler Ave. So, here we are. This beautiful new store, in this vibrant, engaged community, will strengthen all of our stores and benefit all of our members. We on the Board, along with the Weavers Way staff, look forward to learning from and growing with Weavers Way Ambler.