Weavers Way GM Takes Over Philabundance
By Matt Gelb
Glenn Bergman had food, and Pam Lawler wanted it. These were the nascent days of Philabundance, when Lawler – founder of the region’s largest hunger-relief organization – would drive to area businesses in her blue Subaru station wagon, seeking leftovers.
Bergman was executive chef at Frog Commissary catering in the late 1980s, and after cooking for giant parties at the Franklin Institute, he had food that was still fresh.
“That was the question Philabundance answered,” Bergman said. “How do you get food that’s still good to people in need? And she provided that service.”
On Monday, Bergman went from supplier to seeker. The 63-year-old general manager of Weavers Way, a popular co-op market in Northwest Philadelphia, became the latest executive director of Philabundance.
Now he hopes to extend Philabundance’s reach. The South Philadelphia-based organization’s former executive director, Bill Clark, was both credited as an innovator in the fight against hunger and criticized for his hard-nosed tactics in a nonprofit world. He resigned in July.
Murvin Lackey, chairman of Philabundance’s board, touted Bergman’s reputation as someone willing to build relationships with area food groups.
“We have critical work to do in this region,” Lackey said. “The issues we face are much bigger than our capacity to fulfill at Philabundance. We need a leader of the organization who we feel can work very well in the broader community.”
Lackey said 120 candidates were considered during a four-month nationwide search.
“He really had the experience,” Lackey said. “He was local.”
Bergman worked in public health, catering, and private food service before joining Weavers Way. There, he helped develop a zealous community that grew from 50 staff members and annual sales of $5 million to 170 staffers and nearly $20 million in sales.
It became more than a grocery store, Bergman said. He fostered a relationship with Awbury Arboretum, where the co-op tends a three-acre farm. Weavers Way worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to purchase produce grown by small-plot farmers in Philadelphia. The co-op created a farm at Saul High School with education programs.
“I’m most proud of the ability to expand in this area, not only the store, but also into urban farming,” Bergman said. “The increase in procuring local products. About 30 percent of our $20 million in sales is in local products.”
Lackey was impressed by Bergman’s personable style with his employees. A more inclusive Philabundance is at the top of Bergman’s tasks.
“That’s something we need to work on, getting people to focus on working together with all of the food banks and with all of the other people in the area,” Bergman said. “We’re going to help support other people’s efforts.”