By Mike Dougherty
CHESTER, PA (CBS)– For the first time in 12 years, residents of the city of Chester now have a grocery store close to home. Fare & Square is a 16,000 square foot oasis in the middle of a food desert. Chester residents are thrilled.
“It means a lot to me because I can’t drive like I used to,” Frances said. “I can’t take the buses like I used to.”
The store is a first of its kind — a non-profit grocery store. There is no mortgage, rent or property taxes due on the building.
Philabundance, the organization running the store, can pass the savings on to customers.
“For us, targeting a break even is a much lower bar than a commercial operator has to do,” Philabundance president Bill Clark said. “I can afford to lose money and still have a successful project.”
Clark is thankful that many distributors and manufacturers are willing to sell their products to Philabundance at lower prices than they normally would and that makes a big difference for customers when it’s time to check out.
“We’re looking at prices, everyday prices, that are between 8-10 percent less than a typical grocery store in an urban area like this,” he said.
A major part of the mission is to help low income families. Those receiving assistance from SNAP or WIC can sign up for “Carrot Cash” benefits at the store.
“If they sign up,” Clark said. “We can give them a 7 percent rebate on everything they buy.”
Chester mayor John Linder says this is just part of the plan to revitalize his beloved city.
“Obviously, you can see the excitement on my face, on all of our faces, we’re ecstatic.”
Customers are impressed with the selection, especially the fresh produce, and they hope the store is here to stay.
“I got some beef, some turkey wings, some vegetables, an exotic avocado,” Russel Jones said, as he pushed a cart through the crowed isles. “It’s hard to get foreign fruit. It’s a great day for the citizens of the city. Things look very good, reasonable.”
However, Philabundance has never run grocery store.
“We know how to build a store. Now we have to learn it, run it,” Clark said. “I’m sure that we’ve made some mistakes in our product selection. We have to work all that out and we’re focused on that.”
He says several non-profits from other cities are watching closely and some have even booked trips to come check out the store in the next few months.
Mayor John Linder (left) and Philabundance president Bill Clark cut the ribbon to Fare & Square (credit: Mike Dougherty)