Weaver Street Market
At A Glance
|Where:||Hillsborough, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill’s Southern Village, North Carolina|
|What:||Three grocery stores, a bakery, restaurant, commissary, & several non-food spin offs|
|Founders:||Ruffin Slater, Marilyn Butler, Randy Tally|
|Number of employees:||250 (2008)|
When Ruffin Slater and his two friends, Marilyn Butler and Randy Tally, opened up Weaver Street Market in 1988, natural food co-ops meant big crates of dry grains. “We wanted something more than that,” says Ruffin, “something we could get the community involved in.” Today Weaver Street is a large, diversified community enterprise that lives its motto: “A co-op is a better economic system.”
Originally founded in Carrboro, a small artsy community adjacent to Chapel Hill in North Carolina, the Weaver Street Market is now a 12,000-member cooperative comprising three grocery stores, a food-preparation commissary, and an Italian restaurant called Panzanella. It has plied its success into other ventures as well. It has established an affordable housing cooperative and a locally owned radio station. It runs a Cooperative Community Fund and donates more than $60,000 each year to local schools and other nonprofits.
To call Weaver Street Market a triple bottom line business misses the mark. Its mission statement lays out 10 bottom lines beyond profit: cooperative control of profits, local self- reliance, ecological balance, meeting basic community needs, non-exploitation of the workforce, inclusiveness of the community, education of fellow citizens, social interactivity, empowerment of customers, and integration in the local economy.
This isn’t just hype. Unlike many cooperatives, Weaver Street has become an economic powerhouse in the region, with annual revenues now topping $20 million. With its commitment to local, fair, and “authentic” food, it is demonstrating how to practice local sourcing, purchasing, and marketing profitably. Moreover, it has done all of this through a unique design of a co-op blending consumer and worker ownership.