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February 01, 2023

Kensington grocery co-op reopens after members raise $200,000 to save it

The revamped market, which nearly closed last fall, sells more than 500 items produced within a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia, including various meat, dairy and produce options

Neighborhoods Kensington
Kensington Community Food Co-op Reopens Provided Image/Food Shelter PR

Kensington Community Food Co-op, a community-owned grocery store, reopened to the public Tuesday. The co-op was revamped following an influx of donations from members hoping to save the store from folding amid financial difficulties in 2022.

The Kensington Community Food Co-op is beginning its next chapter after nearly shuttering last fall following years of underinvestment and financial woes. 

The market, a source of nutritious foods in an underserved neighborhood, reopened Tuesday following a four-month "turnaround project" made possible by a $200,000 fundraising campaign launched in October.

Now, the store has a fresh design and a host of new products, including new meat, beverage and snack options. The influx of cash also allowed KCFC to reduce the prices of many products.

The fundraising campaign surpassed its goal in just 10 days, bringing in $204,900 from 814 donors. That money allowed KCFC to finance some major improvements, including a $75,000 overhaul of its product offerings and $25,000 in landscaping and security upgrades. Another $40,000 was used to pay back bills. 

As part of the turnaround effort, KCFC owners hired Dennis Hanley, a grocery store consultant with more than 47 years of experience, as the store's interim manager. Hanley, who has helped improve more than 25 co-ops in his career, will remain on staff for several more weeks to oversee the reopening.

"We're thrilled to open our doors and welcome back our community," interim Manager Dennis Hanley said. "The KCFC team has worked hard to create a new space that is not only beautiful, but also serves the needs of our customers. We can't wait to share all of the changes and new products with everyone." 

Like most co-ops, KCFC is owned and operated by its members — there are approximately 1,500 — and governed by a board of directors. Members and non-members are welcome to shop in the store. They also can purchase beer and wine in its Bottle Shop or hang out in its café. 

The store carries more than 500 items produced within a 100-mile radius of Kensington, including staples like meat, dairy, produce and baked goods. There is also a bulk shopping section where customers can bring their own reusable containers to fill up on grains, nuts, herbs, flours, snacks, rice and oats. 

KCFC was established by a group of Kensington residents in 2008, but it took six years to locate a space for the store and another five years to renovate it. When the shop finally opened at 2670 Coral St. in 2019, its managers sought to "sustain a thriving, healthy community, a vibrant cooperative economy, an active and engaged membership, and a community educated in social, economic and food justice." 

Since opening, KCFC has supported more than $150,000 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Electronic Benefits Transfer sales, and purchased products from dozens of local vendors and farmers. Much of its financial struggles came from higher-than-anticipated opening costs, supply chain issues and members moving from the city to the suburbs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the co-op. 

Following the success of its last campaign, KCFC has launched a GoFundMe to crowdfund additional costs for sustaining the store. It has raised $2,360 so far.