The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is a group of neighbors working to open a community-owned, full-service grocery store in the north downtown area of Bethlehem. Our store will be open to all shoppers, and will feature healthy, nutritious, locally-sourced products. Even now, we are also working to give back to our community – and support it – through educational, environmental, and social justice initiatives.
We are now 1450+ members strong, and construction is underway on our future location: 250 E. Broad St. in Bethlehem. If this is a good time for you to consider membership, become a member today and help us make our co-op a reality!
The BFC Story:
“The Red Pepper Story”
In October 2011, Jaime was in the midst of preparing a recipe when she realized she needed a red pepper. By the time she left her home in downtown Bethlehem, drove to the nearest supermarket, purchased the pepper, and drove back downtown, 40 minutes had passed! Jaime took her lament to Facebook, where she found no shortage of empathetic friends.
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op is a diverse community encouraging physical, social, and economic health by providing healthful, affordable food; emphasizing local, sustainable, humane and natural food systems; and offering unique educational opportunities to the entire community.
What is a co-op?
Simply put, a co-op is an independent, democratic organization owned, operated, and financed by its members, committed to the people it serves and the communities in which they live. Some examples you may know: REI (sporting and camping goods), Cabot (cheese), and People First Credit Union.
Like Minded Groups and Individuals
Although our store is not yet open, we are fortunate to have established a number of important partnerships with other community organizations, farmers, retailers and businesses.
This list is a good source of like-minded groups and individuals!
We are also proud members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Bethlehem Association.
Why do we need a co-op?
We have health food stores, farmer’s markets, CSAs, and supermarkets.
Our food co-op
- will be a year-round, full-service option to purchase locally-sourced food and products (farmers markets and CSAs – community-supported agriculture programs – are seasonal)
- will be open to anyone who wants to shop there
- will serve as a focal point for information and gathering in our community
- will give back to our community
- will support and serve all the neighbors in our community
- will provide quality employment opportunities in our community
How did co-ops come about?
Early human societies cooperated by sharing hunting, fishing, farming and shelter practices to improve their chances of survival. As people moved from farms to cities they were no longer able to grow their own food, and they relied on privately owned stores where the prices were high and the selection was limited.
As less powerful members of these new cities, the workers, consumers, farmers, and producers banded together to gain economic clout. They improved their options through joint purchases of supplies and services and kept their costs low. They became a co-op—a business run by the people, for the people.
How do co-ops operate?
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
You may hear these principles abbreviated to, for example, “P6”.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Members’ Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
7. Concern for Community
Can anyone shop at the co-op?
Yes! Our co-op will be open to anyone who wants to shop there, even non-members. However, members will receive many perks, like special prices and discounts, access to classes, and being able to walk in like they own the place (because they do!).
What can I buy at the co-op?
The co-op will be a full-service grocery store, providing enough variety and selection for the average customer to complete their weekly shopping trip at the store. We plan to emphasize local, sustainable, humane and natural food systems, so you can have faith that you are purchasing great products and you will know where your food comes from. You will be able to find everything from basics such as toilet paper and bread to specialty items like vegan delicacies, gluten-free products, and fancy cheeses.
Will the co-op have affordable food?
Yes! It is part of our mission to bring affordable food to downtown Bethlehem. We have a number of ideas in the works for how to keep prices down, such as a basics program with little to no markup on core products, working directly with farmers, bulk bins that will allow you to buy as much or as little as you need, and member specials and discount days where members will receive even better deals than usual.
Will the co-op have free parking?
Part of the process when choosing our store location was to select a site that provides not only for free parking, but that is also close to a major bus route and on a safe cycling route so that folks on ALL sorts of transit have access to our store. And of course many of our neighbors will be able to walk to it! We think we hit that one out of the park, with our site choice of 250 East Broad Street in Bethlehem.
Is there an annual fee after joining the co-op?
No! Your household or organization becomes a full member in our co-op by making a one-time equity payment. There are never any additional fees.
Can my children share my membership card?
Membership in the Bethlehem Food Co-Op is defined by household, so yes, your children and any other members of your immediate household are included under your account! For organizational memberships, two designated representatives will be authorized to shop on behalf of the organization.
Can I work at the co-op to help cover my membership costs?
At this time, each member household or organization must contribute the same amount of financial equity into the co-op. This ensures that our co-op is equitable. However, we realize that making an equity payment could be a challenging situation for some potential members, so we do offer monthly payment plans to make sure membership is accessible to all. We also offer scholarships for income-eligible households. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if this interests you.
Will the co-op accommodate folks with special diets?
We’ll have food for everyone at the co-op! We welcome diverse dietary choices and will strive to carry the products that our members want to purchase.
The Bethlehem Food Co-Op board is elected at the annual membership meeting on the first Monday of October, per our bylaws. These nine volunteers play an important role in our co-op.
On May 1, 2023, Eric Shamis joined the leadership team as the first-ever General Manager. He, along with the board members, are the current team of leaders working hard to bring a community-owned grocery store to our community.
We also have a number of committees and teams that work on specific projects for our organization: check out these volunteer opportunities.
Eric is an experienced retail leader with 21 years in retail operations, 17 of them in retail management, and 14 years specifically in grocery operations.
At 16 years old, he started pushing carts for a regional grocer; this began his fascination with the grocery business. He went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Temple University in 2010 with a degree in Marketing. After graduation, he rejoined the grocery industry as an Assistant Store Manager. In 2013, he joined a large international grocer, where he continued to manage stores.
Eric has held various leadership roles, including training new store management, helping with new store openings, serving as a district green captain (which focused on a store’s environmental impact), and being a district lead for a business resource group that focused on awareness and barrier removal for those shoppers with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Most recently, Eric was a store manager for a large grocery cooperative, where he continued his focus on training and development. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, volunteering in the community, hiking, walking, and listening to music.
Says Eric: “I am thrilled to take part in the historical movement that is creating a community hub in the heart of Bethlehem. It’s an exciting opportunity to offer healthy, locally sourced and reasonably-priced food in a fun and inviting atmosphere.”
A lifelong organic gardener, Carol has a special interest in a community-owned grocery store in downtown Bethlehem with many healthy options for all. She is enthusiastic about supporting local providers and educating the community about sustainability and local impact.
Born and raised in Bethlehem, Carol is the co-founder of Caroltalks.com. She is an award-winning professional speaker, fundraising strategist, executive coach, featured writer, and small business and non-profit consultant. Carol has presented to over half a million educational, non-profit, and small business leaders nationwide. Her team has raised millions of dollars for Lehigh Valley non-profits and has developed strong, innovative boards and committed volunteer teams.
Carol currently serves on the Steering Committee for Lehigh Valley Reads and the Zoning Board for the City of Bethlehem. Formerly, she served as President of the National Speakers Association in Philadelphia and as board chair for St. Lukes Hospital VNA and Hospice. Her awards include Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the Year, Most Likely to Succeed in the Speaking Business and recently the “Good Scout” award given by the Boy Scouts of America.
Board Vice Chair
Todd purchased his home in Bethlehem in 2021 but has lived and worked in the Lehigh Valley area his whole life. He’s been an active member of the co-op since moving here. He is the parent of two adult children and a proud grandparent of one, and his daughter and her husband are also members of our co-op.
Todd is employed at Dun & Bradstreet as Senior Director in Learning & Development. In his role he is a leadership coach and consultant for D&B’s managers across the global company. He brings many years of experience from other community-based organizations to his position with the co-op.
An avid indoor and outdoor gardener, he attributes his green thumb to two women in his life – his mother and great-grandmother. One of his pet projects has been two raised-bed gardens he built with his partner to do some vegetable gardening in the summer. He enjoys running and biking, and says, “I love food and I love even more when I know where my food was born and raised. I can’t think of a better way to spend time and energy than being part of our food co-op.”
Deb is a retired National Service Representative, having traveled around the country training volunteer leaders in her work for the National PTA for 13 years; previously she had been a volunteer for the PTA for 30 years. She has lived in West Bethlehem for over ten years and has five grandchildren. She is also active in her church, where she has been a choir member and served as a trustee. Deb enjoys her flower gardens, yoga, motorcycle riding and spending time with her family.
Says Deb: “I am an avid conservationist with a strong belief in protecting the environment. I became a member of the co-op because I have seen the critical need to promote healthy lifestyles utilizing locally grown products, as I view my community as part of a larger family. I look forward to working with the board to create a healthy, sustainable grocery which will enhance the nutritional needs of our community, while developing an educational/ informational platform to support future generations.”
Domenic is a resident of the north downtown area of Bethlehem – where our new store will be built. He joined the co-op in June of 2017, and volunteered with the Finance Committee before being chosen to serve as treasurer, and then elected to the Board in October 2020.
He has a BS in Computer Science from Bloomsburg University and an MBA from DeSales University. He has held a number of leadership positions for large companies in the Lehigh Valley, and is currently leading the Cyber Security Team at Lutron Electronics.
Domenic writes, “I am an amateur, albeit passionate, cook, gardener, and home brewer who is equally passionate about locally sourced organic food. I believe that having a thriving local food system is essential to our community’s health – physical and economic – and to the sustainability of our environment. Affordable access to locally sourced food should be available to everyone and I am excited to be part of the team that will help the Bethlehem Food Co-Op play this important role for our community.”
Having worked around the country at a number of high-end kitchens, Justin and his family moved back to the Lehigh Valley in 2022 and joined the co-op shortly after. He was elected to the BFC board in October of 2022. He is a chef with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, focusing on farm to table dining, and he now works in a local event venue.
Justin feels strongly about using high-quality, fresh ingredients in food preparation, and is committed to ensuring they will be available in our store. He brings experience with local sustainable agriculture, product knowledge, and previous financial responsibilities running restaurants to our board.
He believes food insecurity is one of the greatest threats that children and families in America deal with on a daily basis. It’s his life goal to create a community where children won’t have to worry about where their next meal comes from. Bethlehem having a successful co-op is an incredibly valuable resource for our community.
Heather and her family have lived in the City of Bethlehem for the past 12 years and are pioneering members of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op since its incorporation in 2013. She is the Executive Director of a local healthcare organization, promotes organic gardening at home, and recently expanded gardening into her work-life by encouraging her employees to build several raised vegetable and flower beds.
She earned her Real Estate license six years ago and enjoys helping first-time home buyers in making their home ownership dreams a reality. She believes in supporting local farmers and businesses in order to strengthen the community and is passionate about opening a food co-op in her hometown of Bethlehem. Her first co-op experience occurred years ago when she visited Ithaca, New York’s GreenStar Natural Foods Market, witnessing the similarities between the cities of Ithaca and Bethlehem. Throughout the years and weekend trips to Ithaca, Heather dreamed of being a member of her own food co-op.
Heather previously served on the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s Real Estate Committee in an effort to research properties for the future co-op home. She is interested in the physical plant location in order to bring food to local residents who may not have the means to easily access quality food. Heather enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with her family, specifically hiking, kayaking, biking and gardening.
Kathy has resided in Bethlehem since 2010 and has been a member of the co-op since 2014. Besides joining the BFC, her passion for the environment has also led her to joining or starting other organizations which believe in sustainable living and protecting the earth for future generations. She is a former member of the City of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council and current co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee.
She believes food is our first medicine and makes an effort to shop at farmer’s markets, organic farms, local health food stores, and grows her own organic vegetables and fruit in her yard. She looks forward to shopping at a community-owned, full-service grocery store in downtown Bethlehem. Kathy also has a passion for swing dancing, specifically the Lindy Hop, and is always looking forward to the next dance.
Cindy grew up in Bethlehem, attended local schools and graduated from Moravian College (now Moravian University). She is a retired corporate affairs manager, experienced in corporate communications, community relations and grant making. Cindy continues to be active in the community, currently serving as vice president of Touchstone Theatre, and as a member of the Investment Committee at the United Way and of the Rotary Club of Bethlehem.
Cindy became a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op because of her interest in locally grown food, strong belief in the importance of farmland preservation and strengthening the local economy. She loves to garden, enjoys participating in community events and relaxing with a good book. She has two grown children and cherishes time with her twin grandsons and visiting her two grandchildren in Arizona whenever she can.
“Carol B” grew up in Illinois (‘not Chicago’) and lived in numerous locations before moving to Bethlehem over 20 years ago. Her day job is at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, and she serves on the leadership team of the Bethlehem Interfaith Group. She also does marketing work for a number of local businesses and organizations, and is a long-time sustaining member of WDIY and member of its Community Advisory Board.
She describes herself as a ‘good audience member’ for local theatre and concerts, and enjoys learning more about the local food and agriculture scene. A favorite summer pastime is hanging out at farmers markets and events at the co-op outreach tent, talking co-op with current and future members.
Her attraction to the co-op is a result of her experiencing food insecurity – on more than one occasion – and knows what it’s like to be challenged to feed herself and her family. She is committed to working together to alleviate those issues for others – while benefiting the greater community and supporting local growers and producers.
Here’s how to get in touch with us:
Bethlehem Food Co-Op
P.O. Box 58
Bethlehem, PA 18016