Kensington Co-op Moves Closer to Completion

Kens­ing­ton Com­munity Food Co-op is about a year away from open­ing in Kens­ing­ton, ac­cord­ing to board mem­bers.

AMAN­DA STALLER / Philadelphia STAR PHOTO

After years of plan­ning, fun­drais­ing and out­reach, the fin­ish line is fi­nally in sight for the Kens­ing­ton Com­munity Food Co-op (KCFC), 2666-2672 Cor­al St. 

Since find­ing a home in the build­ing that used to house Shan­non’s Tav­ern, the mem­ber-owned, com­munity-driv­en co­oper­at­ive gro­cery store is inch­ing closer to open­ing its doors to the pub­lic. 

The KCFC board hos­ted a cof­fee klatch and opened their doors to the com­munity for cas­u­al con­ver­sion on Sat­urday, Jan. 16.

High­lights in­cluded the plans for the space, a timeline of the pro­ject and the im­port­ance of the co­oper­at­ive busi­ness in the ever-chain­ing land­scape of Kens­ing­ton. 

“We’ve se­cured about two-thirds of the pro­ject’s es­tim­ated cost,” said Oren Eis­en­berg, KCFC vo­lun­teer and sec­ret­ary of the com­mit­tee. “It’s a soon­er rather than later vis­ion.” 

Cur­rently, KCFC board mem­bers are work­ing with an ar­chi­tect on store designs. Once the designs are fi­nal­ized, the board will go for­ward with bid­ding and con­struc­tion costs. The timeline, however, de­pends on how fast the board and its mem­bers can fi­nal­ize the rest of the fin­an­cing. 

In Ju­ly, KCFC pos­ted on their blog two floor plan pos­sib­il­it­ies for the fu­ture space, which in­cluded a wine bar and out­door patio seat­ing area.

With around 730 mem­bers, KCFC board mem­bers hope to ex­pand that num­ber to 1,000 in the near fu­ture in or­der to se­cure the cap­it­al needed to ren­ov­ate the space. 

“The reas­on the mem­ber­ship num­ber is so im­port­ant is that is shows the lenders that there’s com­munity sup­port for the store,” said Caiti Rothen­berg, sec­ret­ary of the KCFC board of dir­ect­ors. “It shows that people will shop here and we can be suc­cess­ful.”

While the co-op is loom­ing closer to its open­ing, which Rothen­berg pre­dicts is about a year out, the core mis­sion and val­ues re­main the same as they were years ago when the co-op was con­cep­tu­ally con­ceived.

“The co-op it­self was sort of born out of EKNA,” said Colleen Watts, 36, KCFC board mem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to Watts, con­cerned neigh­bors star­ted brain­storm­ing about the idea for a co­oper­at­ive, mem­ber-owned gro­cery store around the same time Sug­ar­House Casino was mak­ing its way to Delaware Av­en­ue.

“There was a real feel­ing of res­ist­ance against that and a lot of folks who were in­volved wanted to cre­ate something that would be a pos­it­ive force in the neigh­bor­hood as op­posed to res­ist­ing,” Watts said. 

Over the years, board mem­bers have fo­cused on find­ing a per­man­ent home, re­cruit­ing mem­bers and pro­ject­ing the val­ues that the co-op hopes to bring to the neigh­bor­hood.

“Co-ops his­tor­ic­ally in some areas might have the stigma of not be­ing open to the com­munity, an op­tion only for rich people or people of money,” Watts said. “In this area, we are look­ing at com­munit­ies that are really dif­fer­ent from each oth­er.”

One of the most im­port­ant as­pects for the board mem­bers of KCFC was to cater to all res­id­ents of the sur­round­ing com­munity, fo­cus­ing on be­ing open and wel­com­ing to those of dif­fer­ent so­cioeco­nom­ic back­grounds. 

“Every co-op I know is a com­munity hub for the folks in their com­munity,” Watts said. “You go to the co-op, you see your neigh­bors shop­ping, you’re help­ing your neigh­bors and in­ter­act­ing with them and you’re buy­ing stuff that you’ve had some in­put in.”

For those in­volved with KCFC, this is not simply a gro­cery store. Once com­pleted, KCFC aims to pro­mote com­munity around food, not just a way to pur­chase it. 

“We ac­tu­ally want the co-op to be the per­son’s third home, and that’s how we’re po­s­i­tion­ing it,” Eis­en­berg said. “The co-op is not just a place you go to get your food, but it’s a des­tin­a­tion to see your neigh­bors, have a snack or drink with your friends, and to be in this neigh­bor­hood sup­por­ted by those who are close to you.”

With a fo­cus on com­munity in­genu­ity and loc­ally sus­tain­able products, KCFC fits the neigh­bor­hoods cur­rent state of mind.

“What’s so spe­cial is that it’s com­munity-driv­en and it keeps that men­tal­ity go­ing,” said Nic Es­posito, pres­id­ent of the East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation and KCFC mem­ber since 2011. “The com­munity is rap­idly chan­ging and there’s a lot of new people com­ing in. To keep that huge root in com­munity by hav­ing your own com­munity-run gro­cery store is really im­port­ant.” 

With Mari­posa Food Co-op, 4824 Bal­timore Ave., and Weaver’s Way Co-op, 559 Car­penter Ln., be­ing the only oth­er co­oper­at­ive gro­cery stores in Phil­adelphia, KCFC board mem­bers be­lieve they’ll be filling a much-needed gap in ac­cess to food.

In ad­di­tion to adding to the strong sense of com­munity-driv­en busi­ness in the neigh­bor­hood, KCFC looks to add to the eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment of the sur­round­ing area.

“Dol­lars in­ves­ted in a co-op gen­er­ate more eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment than in a con­ven­tion­al gro­cery store and that only makes our com­munity even bet­ter,” Watts said.

For $200, a price that can be broken down over a five or 10-month peri­od, com­munity mem­ber could claim par­tial own­er­ship in KCFC.

“As own­ers, you’re in­ves­ted,” Watts said. “You have skin in the game.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, mem­ber­ship opens ac­cess to KCFC’s Shop Loc­al Pro­gram, where par­ti­cipants can re­ceive dis­counts from over 50 loc­al busi­nesses.

When KCFC’s doors fi­nally open to the neigh­bor­hood, shop­pers will be able to pur­chase loc­ally sourced pro­duce, grab snacks and sand­wiches, and even grab a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine. 

While KCFC may ap­pear to some as simply a gro­cery store, the core val­ues and mis­sion of the com­pany look to ripple out in­to the com­munity, af­fect­ing both the people and the eco­nomy sur­round­ing it.

“The power of the co-op is so huge,” said Re­becca Tor­pie, KCFC board mem­ber. “When people get to­geth­er to do something good in their com­munity, it’s so much big­ger than the top down. When you work from the bot­tom up, I think it’s so much more power­ful. You can do a lot to­geth­er.”

For the latest up­dates about KCFC, vis­it kcfc.coop/.

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