Community Co-op Comes to Town
Weaver Street Market is bringing
fresh, local foods to the Warehouse District.
By Spencer Griffith / Photos courtesy of Weaver Street Market
Downtown Raleigh will finally get its first grocery store when Weaver Street Market opens in The Dillon this July, marking its fourth location in the Triangle and first outside of Orange County, where almost 40 percent of households are owners in the co-op. As general manager Ruffin Slater sees it, Raleigh is getting much more than simply a grocer. “Since it’s a co-op, Weaver Street is driven by the community,” notes Slater, who helped found the market in 1988 in its flagship Carrboro location.
Since moving to downtown Raleigh himself, Slater has heard from plenty of his new neighbors who are looking forward to the natural foods grocer’s focus on fresh, healthy, and locally sourced offerings, more than half of which come from North Carolina producers, other co-ops, or are made in-house. He’s found that Weaver Street’s reputation for both community involvement and community values—including paying employees a living wage and its recent initiative to eliminate single-use paper and plastic bags—precedes itself as well.
Store manager Micki McCarthy—who’s been with Weaver Street Market for 12 years, previously managing the Chapel Hill store—lights up while discussing how the Warehouse District location will hold After Hours community gatherings on the third Thursday of every month through October. “We’re going to close down our block of Hargett Street and have a street party with live music and lots of street games out for kids,” she explains. “We’ll invite local vendors to do tastings, and maybe do some beer and wine sampling on premises, but it will just be a chill place to hang out.” McCarthy anticipates that the store’s tasting kitchen, which will host drop-in events with vendors, and its second-floor bar will both draw customers to the new location as well.
Along with a mezzanine that wraps around three sides of the 12,600-square-foot store, al fresco dining on the sidewalk or balcony will make Weaver Street Market a welcome spot to gather. Especially given the options for a quick, healthy meal thanks to the extensive array of prepared foods from its hot bar and salad bar. Slater also hopes that a pair of technology-equipped meeting rooms—available for groups to reserve at no cost—will further allow the space to serve as a community hub.
Weaver Street’s community involvement goes beyond the store’s four walls, too. In the first year, donations made by customers through its Round Up program will help the Raleigh location donate 12,500 tokens to A Place at the Table, a neighboring pay-what-you-can café and community space. “Weaver Street is incredible,” gushes Maggie Kane, founder of A Place at the Table. “This gift is a game changer for us and will help provide an abundance of meals for people who cannot afford a fresh, healthy meal.”
Even before it opens in the Warehouse District, the Weaver Street co-op is sponsoring Runologie’s Fourth of July road race, which celebrates fellow independent businesses while supporting Healing Transitions and the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy. “We’re thrilled to have Weaver Street Market involved in the Keep RLGH Independent 4 Miler, and to welcome a great local neighbor to our block and to the downtown community,” says Runologie co-owner Brent Francese.
For his part, Slater views this opening as just the first step in growing Weaver Street Market’s foothold in Raleigh, already sizing up possibilities for further expansion while appreciating more convenient access to producers in the eastern part of the state and the potential to grow the co-op’s ownership ranks with more Raleigh residents. “We’re assuming this store will be successful and, based on that, we already have inquiries from other neighborhoods,” he acknowledges. “Raleigh’s the biggest part of the Triangle and there are no co-ops here, so it’s a wide-open opportunity.” Given all that Weaver Street Market has to offer the community, it feels like just as much of an opportunity for the capital city.