Those of us who are Member-Owners of a certain age and grew up in small towns may relate to the childhood co-op roots of this writer. My childhood in the 1950’s was spent in Tamaqua, PA, a coal town in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. Always a town with residents living in poverty—then and now, we were blessed with small, neighborhood grocery stores owned and operated by local families. We were also surrounded by farms providing produce, dairy and meats to these stores.
Though we had 3 large corporate grocery stores, A&P, Genetti’s, and Acme, most people shopped at their local neighborhood store daily. Each part of town had a store, fondly remembered to this day. The north end of town had Schmauch’s and Kaufman’s, the east end had Diprato’s, in the south end was Peracini’s and at the west end, Paperman’s. The store owners, some farmers themselves, would help you plan the meal and tell you how to cook it. Our family’s Italian dish recipes came from Johnny Diprato. I understood the meaning of great local produce from eating Diprato’s home grown big, red “Jersey” tomatoes. More than a place to buy your dinner ingredients, these stores were the local community centers. If a neighbor was short of food or needed help in some way, these local grocers made a point of knowing who needed the help and how you as a neighbor could assist.
The power of a member-determined community grocer is enormous. Swarthmore residents will tell you that the Swarthmore Food Co-op is their town “center.” When you visit any food co-op the sense of “community” is strong. Food Co-ops are not only places to buy good quality, healthy locally produced foods, they are also places where employees and shoppers know each other’s name. You share the grocery space and make it what you want it to be. It is not merely four walls with products on the shelf. It is your “grocery home.”
If you invest today in Kennett Community Grocer creating this Community powerhouse, 60 years hence, your children and grandchildren, like me, will have fond memories of their time in the store.