Weavers Way Co-op was founded in 1973 in West Mount Airy, a neighborhood in Philadelphia. A cooperatively owned market, Weavers Way grew from a small deli and produce buying club to include two fully staffed and stocked grocery stores in West Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill; Across the Way, a natural pet supply and wellness store in Mount Airy; and Weavers Way Next Door, a natural health and wellness store in Chestnut Hill.
Weavers Way was founded during the “New Wave” cooperative movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of similarly minded cooperative retail and other ventures were founded across the United States. Offering an alternative to the conventional grocery store, Weavers Way took advantage of the power of collective purchasing to bring better and healthier foods into the community at affordable prices, and pushed for environmental, agricultural, and sociopolitical change through consumer activism and other programs.
From the beginning, the co-op encouraged its membership to be fully vested in the formation of its governance and in choosing which products to sell or not sell, with early newsletters concluding, “If you don’t decide, someone else will!” In its product philosophy statement, the Co-op outlined its commitment to selling products that were locally and/or cooperatively produced, did not originate from exploitative businesses, and to offer product alternatives, such as bulk versus packaged or organic versus non-organic foods. Weavers Way also organized agricultural boycotts and recycling programs, and, as a leader in urban agriculture and the organic foods movement, it operated the Mort Brooks Memorial Farm at Awbury Arboretum and the Henry Got Crops community supported agriculture (CSA) program at W.B. Saul Agricultural High School.
An active and neighborhood-defining organization, Weavers Way Co-op’s records are a valuable addition to Special Collections Research Center’s holdings. In addition to documenting the history of the co-op and its surrounding community, the Weaver’s Way accession adds to an existing body of collections in the SCRC documenting life in northwest Philadelphia. Other collections include the Ann Spaeth Papers on Chestnut Hill, Lloyd Wells Papers on the Chestnut Hill Experience, the Chestnut Hill Local, the East Mount Airy Neighborhood Association Records, and the West Mouth Airy Neighborhood Association Records. As an added bonus, the Weavers Way Co-op Records also represent our most pleasantly perfumed collection. Having previously been stored above Across the Way, the material emits a delightful aroma of soaps and other wellness products. To learn more about the collection, view the Weavers Way Co-op finding aid.
--Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC