Early on the morning of May 15, Chestnut Hill residents lined up along the Avenue for the most important event in Northwest Philadelphia since the Battle of Germantown.
It was opening day at the new Weaver’s Way Co-op in Chestnut Hill. Located in the former Caruso’s Market building, on Germantown Ave, Weaver’s Way Chestnut Hill was so popular on its opening day that store workers had to lock the doors to keep eager natural foods shoppers out until the store officially opened.
Small wonder. The new store is a bright, shiny foodie’s paradise, from its cheerful apple-green walls to its luscious bounty of fresh local produce and its eye-popping array of more than a dozen different goat cheeses. Like the Rittenhouse Square DiBruno Brothers’ or the Comcast Center basement, the new Weaver’s Way looks like the kind of market you’d find in New York—but with a distinctly Philly flair.
On a recent trip to the new store, I ran into Tom Walsh, known locally as the “Mayor of Chestnut Hill,” stocking the shelves with chocolate soy milk. After a quick chat with the ever-cheerful Tom, I noticed that soy wasn’t the only chocolate milk option: close by was a display of chocolate hemp milk, as well as a selection of organic chocolate milk in lunch-sized boxes.
I browsed through the 20 varieties of mostly-local honey, selecting a jar from the Morris Arboretum. The honey fit even the pickiest locavore’s criteria: it was made by bees at the Morris Arboretum half a mile down the road.
A few years ago, when the Swarthmore Food Coop remodeled, it held the designation of the most glamorous member-owned grocery in the area. Weaver’s Way Chestnut Hill now has it beat. It’s almost unrecognizable as a spinoff of the original Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy. Weaver’s Way Mt. Airy, founded in 1973, is the quintessential member-owned cooperative grocery. This type of neighborhood shopping experience, with its focus on fresh wholesome foods and community, is both precious and scarce in these days of big box shopping, when even Target sells organic baby lettuce.
But Weaver’s Way Mt. Airy is not a place where you go for a leisurely shopping experience. The aisles are narrow, and neighbors stop to chat in the narrow aisles, and there are only two miniature shopping carts. The produce aisle is a throwback: you have to weigh your own veggies and label them with masking tape and a china marker. Bring a child to shop at your own risk. My kid gets a combination of adoring grins and claustrophobia-induced glares on our weekly visits. Tyke shoppers are known to obstruct the already-cramped traffic patterns, and strollers are met with open hostility. Weaver’s Way Mt. Airy is a great store, and it is the lifeblood of the neighborhood, and I will stop shopping there when I am cold and dead, but the cramped shopping conditions do not bring out the best in people. Especially when everyone in the neighborhood stops in for bagels, lox, and the New York Times at exactly the same time.
Not so in the new Weaver’s Way Chestnut Hill. Strollers are welcome, and carts are abundant. Two double-wide BOB Mountain Buggy strollers can pass each other at the gluten-free frozen foods case, with room to spare.
The Chestnut Hill store poached chef Bonnie Shuman from the kitchen in the Mt. Airy store, and Bonnie is churning out more delicious house-made specialty items than ever. Outstanding take-out dishes include the bright green vegan pesto, made of spinach and walnut and basil, or the Parisian Pig sandwich made with wood-smoked ham, brie, and fig served on a croissant.
I left the store on a recent visit with a round of Amazing Acres goat cheese from Nubian goats in Elverson, PA; a fresh Magret duck breast; some cured pork bellies; a Metropolitan Bakery baguette; and an organic watermelon. I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with them, but I’m sure it will be delicious.