After a decade of planning and development, the South Philly Food Co-op officially opened for business last month. You may recall, we first reported on this project back in 2016, when leaders of the organization had just settled on their storefront location. We checked in again in 2017, anticipating an opening the following year, but clearly things took a little longer than expected. Despite the extended timeline, the opening of the new store represents the final step in the renovation of the building at 2031 S. Juniper St., which underwent a major rehab effort about half a dozen years ago.

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View in the past
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Current view

We noted in 2016 that the rest of the block wasn’t much to speak of, but the plans for the co-op have likely accelerated development nearby. A warehouse space to the north has turned into Juniper Muay Thai Gym, with CrossFit gym PHL Athletics located a next door. With the co-op and the gyms, it feels like this block is turning into something of a cornerstone for healthy living in South Philadelphia, and this feels particularly auspicious in light of the relatively recent closures of Wendy’s and McDonald’s around the corner.

We visted the co-op the other day, and as you might guess, the store is much smaller than the Acme on Passyunk Avenue or the Whole Foods on South Street. They’re still making good use of their 3,300 sqft space though, offering a fulsome selection of healthy local and organic foods in an environment that feels cozy, but not cramped. Check out these photos, to give you a sense of what the space looks like:

Some more victuals
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Back of the store

General Manager of the co-op Lori Burge emphasized in a recent interview with South Philly Review that the co-op’s “ultimate goal is to keep residents’ grocery dollars in the neighborhood.” Indeed, while other larger markets all within relative distance, these businesses don’t exactly share the co-op’s goals of emphasizing local products or putting money back into the community.

As of December, the Co-op has 1400 member-owners and counting. Anyone who’d like to join the co-op but can’t afford the $300 member-owner fee can apply for support from the co-op’s community equity fund. It’s nice to see the organization making such an active effort to get healthy food to everyone in what is still an economically mixed section of South Philly. We’re excited to see what happens as word gets around town and we’ll be interested to see how this block will continue to change now that the co-op has opened its doors.

–Jake Ahlquist