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West Philly food co-op Mariposa expands, adds sustainability features

The property at 4726 Baltimore Avenue in West Philly was made to be a bank. With its stone columns and regal marblework, the building has housed many community banks and even a church over the years. But with community support, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation funding and city grants, this big-business stalwart will soon be home to another neighborhood staple, Mariposa Food Co-Op.

Since the early 1970's, Mariposa has been selling organic, locally-grown food to neighborhood residents, employing a cast of regulars as volunteer grocers, and educating the community about food. But recent spikes in sales--the co-op is currently doing $1 million in annual sales from a 500 square-foot retail space) called for an expansion.

"The sheer size of our store is something that has limited us in our ability to stock a broader selection of inventory as well as a larger amount of the things that we do stock," says Mariposa Director of Development Esteban Kelly. "A wider variety of inventory will allow us to appeal to different cultural groups and the space will allow us to expand certain departments that are now smaller in the current space."

Beyond expanding inventory on the shopping floor, the second level will house a community center and classrooms in what was once boardrooms and offices. What once were vaults will now be cold storage and preparation rooms. With Phase 2, Mariposa hopes to build a green roof, and a beehive. And in the future, Phase 3 will feature a second-floor café with prepared foods, creating a neighborhood social center that is right on the money.

"This expansion is driven by our mission to provide healthy food to a neighborhood that doesn't have that," says Kelly. "We were driven by the pragmatics of the situation. Our growth has been explosive and we completely ran out of space. This should help with that."

Source: Esteban Kelly, Mariposa Food Co-Op
Writer: John Steele

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