It looks like a smaller grocery store with fruits, vegetables, wellness items, spices and baked goods. But the Erie Foods Co-op is not your typical grocer.
It's a community-owned grocery store.

"We define that by allowing our member owners as anybody who buys equity in the co-op," said CEO Leanna Nieratko "They come to board meetings they run for our board and they kind of define and shape the goal of the coop throughout the year."

The cost? A one-time $100 fee that comes with sales, and a voice.

Nieratko says there's more than 7,000 local co-op members.

The cafe provides indoor and outdoor seating, weather permitting. Smoothie blends are unique and recipes are rotated for seasons and likeness.

The same goes for the soup selection. Made fresh every day and packaged for the grab or "Good to go" section of the store, along with other daily-made food for convenience.

Curbside pickup is one of the latest editions of the store here, located off West 26th St. in Erie, and it started during the pandemic.

The pandemic time project is also expanding the reach of the co-op to downtown Erie, for a grocery store option along North Park Row. A years-long project in what's called the "Marketplace."

Vivian McCullum has been hired as the downtown store manager and has worked downtown for more than 20 years.

"A lot of the people in this demographic don't drive a vehicle, so a lot of people have to wait for transport to and from the supermarket," McCullum said.

They'll have an area to buy rotisserie chicken, fresh squeezed juice, and create your own salad from "Sally the Robot," a vending machine loaded with fresh, daily ingredients, all in shared space with two other local businesses.

Its an unexpected venture, from the humble beginnings of when Barb and Doug Daily started the co-op in 1981, partnering with a grassroots group to foster food choices in the community.

The downtown Erie co-op is set to open on march 15th, just in time for Saint Patrick's day.

The same space will also house another location for Gordon's Meat Market, and Luminary Distilling.

Eventually, there will be an outside courtyard area for people to eat and drink.

What's more is that members from other co-op's in Philadelphia and North Carolina will help in getting the new Erie location up and running, while the 26th Street co-op will be business as usual.