Happy Customer: Swarthmore Co-op

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We’re asking customers to share what they love about their local natural products store.
This month, the spotlight shines on one shopper’s experience at Swarthmore Co-op in Swarthmore, PA.

The Swarthmore Co-op has a long history dating back to the Great Depression. In 1932, the community lacked quality fresh produce, so a group of women from Swarthmore created a produce buying club. News of the club quickly spread, and by 1937, the roots of the third oldest food cooperative in the nation were planted.

Interest in the co-op grew, and soon expansion was needed. Mike Litka, General Manager at Swarthmore, explained that the locals were the ones to fund the expansion project. Specifically, 720 members generated over $640,000 in member loans to help expand the store.

On October 14, 2004, the co-op opened its new doors on the property right next door to the original structure. Today, they offer a full-service butcher and seafood counter, a delicatessen with prepared foods, expanded produce and grocery departments, and a variety of local cheeses and specialty products.

Tiiu Lutter, Director of Development for a behavioral health nonprofit and writer for ExpertInsuranceReviews.com, became a regular shopper at Swarthmore just after its reestablishment in 2004. She was initially drawn to the personal style and neighborly shopping experience, and today Lutter loves the atmosphere the co-op creates. “There is something so wonderful about running into people you know in the store. I am happy to know that my purchases are supporting small farmers and local businesses,” she said. Her experience at the co-op also influenced her to shop at other bricks-and-mortar shops in the local neighborhood.

Shaping her diet around minimizing inflammation, Lutter’s favorite products to buy at the co-op include free-range poultry, cheeses, and locally grown vegetables. “I love knowing that the things I am buying are locally sourced and organic whenever possible, that every item is fair trade, and that all the prepared foods were made in small batches, that very day or hour!”

The co-op has saved Lutter time as well. “The things I really want are there and there are fewer choices to make,” she explains. “There is nothing like having a co-op in your town.”
Community involvement and worker rights are also factors Lutter considers while shopping. People who work at Swarthmore make a fair wage, she says.

The co-op is involved in the community beyond food, too, says Litka. “We make donations to local organizations and groups like the Little League and we sponsor the Truck-a-thon, the 2nd largest Food Truck Show in the Philly area.”

To learn more about Swarthmore Co-op, visit www.swarthmore.coop.

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