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A dream planted bears fruit Food Co-op breaks ground on future grocery

More than a decade in the making, the dream of the Bethlehem Food Co-op has finally come to pass with the May 5 groundbreaking of its future grocery store. Set to open a year from now with major fundraising, grants and the support of 1,115 members, 250 E. Broad St. will be the first Westside grocery, providing an oasis in the longstanding food desert.

The Co-op, organized by local residents, emphasizes local, sustainable and humane food systems to encourage physical and social health. Stemming from its founder’s long search for a red pepper in 2011, the Co-op’s been intent on securing a local grocery.

Co-op Chair Carol Ritter, who shed tears while thanking Rep. Susan Wild for years of help culminating in a $2.9 million grant, said the Co-op is a leader in the field and a finalist for the national co-op Innovator Award later this month.

The final product will be a four-story mixed-use building that will house the Co-op’s 6,300-square-foot grocery on the ground floor with 41 residential apartments upstairs; 25 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom units.

“We are also in the process of rebranding because we’re not going to be a grassroots organization any more,” said Ritter. “It takes a village, and that village is here with us today.”

Peron Development Director John Callahan said the overall project still lacks a proper name, but he congratulated everyone involved with the first successful co-op in the nation to open a store debt-free.

For information, visit bethlehemfood.coop.

Co-op Chair Carol Ritter says, “This is the biggest and best co-op in Pennsylvania.”
PRESS PHOTOS BY NATE JASTRZEMSKI Various local officials and Co-op representatives pitch the first ceremonial shovel May 5.
Rep. Susan Wild says, “Today is a celebration of the way thing should happen.”
The empty lot at 250 E. Broad St. has been turned over, but the main excavation to begin soon. If the construction schedule holds, the Press will return to this site for the grand opening this time next year.
Artist's rendition of the completed project; apartments above a grocery.