Weaver Street Market: The Heart of Carrboro
Weaver Street flourishes as the heart of the Carrboro community through its embodiment of the idea of locality in its financial, social, and political integration into the town.
Address: 101 East Weaver Street (in front of Carr Mill Mall)
Hours: 7am – 10pm, Monday – Sunday
Expect to spend: More than Food Lion, less than Whole Foods
Offers: Full grocery store with bakery, coffee & hot/salad bar
Tar Heel Tips
Stay for a drink: If you’re over 21, you can buy a single bottle of beer or a bottle of wine to enjoy on the lawn — they’ll provide the glasses!
How to get there: Take the J or CW bus from Chapel Hill, or drive and park in the store’s lot next door.
Explore Carrboro: Hit up the Carrboro Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, check out Rumors on N. Graham Street for cool vintage clothes, or grab a drink at Steel String Brewery. Just be sure to move your car to one of the other free lots in Carrboro!
Get buzzed: Be sure to grab a coffee card when you’re buying your next cup! Buy 12 coffee drinks of your choice and enjoy your 13th on the house.
In a town like Carrboro, community is everything. And in Carrboro, Weaver Street Market is synonymous with community. Though Weaver Street is just a stone’s throw away from the only other full-service grocery store close to downtown Chapel Hill, Harris Teeter, and the new small-format Target on Franklin Street, the market has developed its own following and serves a drastically different purpose and audience than these larger chain store.
The natural grocery store and food cooperative has occupied the space in front of the historic Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro for almost 30 years, and has reached beyond the offerings of your typical supermarket for those three decades to serve the town as a space for locals to grab lunch from the hot bar, split a bottle of wine with friends on the lawn, or groove to local musicians while checking things off their to-do lists. Weaver Street flourishes as the heart of the Carrboro community through its embodiment of the idea of locality in its financial, social, and political integration into the town.
Financial Locality: Operating for and by the community
The idea of working for the locals of town shines through in Weaver Street Market’s business practices and especially in its cooperative business model. Ruffin Slater, one of the three founders, had the idea for a “natural foods store that would be owned and operated by…the people in the community” when he was working at the Durham Food Co-Op in the mid 1980s, according to an article on the town website. Weaver Street Market is now the largest food cooperative in the Southeast, and operates to be member-focused rather than profit-focused.
The Neighboring Food Co-Ops (NFCA) website says that what makes the model unique is that a cooperative is “owned and democratically governed by its members, the people who use its products or services, or are employed by the business.” Weaver Street’s website explains this a little more: members pay a one-time fee to buy a share — ranging from $75 for a one-adult household, to $175 for a household with three or more adults — and then are able to access a variety of benefits, such as coupons and owner specials, eligibility to join a local credit union, and the ability to vote on the Board of Directors. Getting Carrboro locals involved at the owner level of the company, along with other practices like donating extra food to local organizations and encouraging customers to pay with cash or gift cards to keep more money in the community instead of losing it in bank fees, highlight Weaver Street’s emphasis on community.
Social Locality: Part of the town
Both the physical space of the business — from its inviting, grassy lawn to the hot bar that even rivals that of Whole Foods — and what Weaver Street does with that space help make the market the center of the community. So much of the space is dedicated to more than just shopping, which helps to shift the demographic of the store from customer to community member. Weaver Street encourages its patrons to stick around after grabbing their groceries and snacks with welcoming spaces: a large room around the corner from the bakery boasts tables and counters for eating and studying, a green lawn outside is the perfect spot for a picnic, and other tables and benches against the side of the building invite friends, families, and furry friends alike to relax.
Weaver Street has also become a hot venue for town events, such as the annual Carrboro Music Festival, which sprawls over numerous location throughout the town. The lawn of the market is a favorite location for bigger shows, like Chapel Hill band Ellis Dyson & the Shambles, which has played a set there the last couple of years. Weaver Street hosts their own events too on a smaller scale, like their weekly jazz brunches on Sunday mornings. By breaking down the conventions about when people find themselves at a grocery store, Weaver Street is returning their business spaces to the public and inviting the community in.
Political Locality: Embracing progressivism
Weaver Street has become involved politically too. It has aligned itself with the town’s progressive values. The town is consistently named as one of the most progressive in the South, and growth over the past few decades has given rise to a “vibrant and diverse community.” Carrboro has no problem
being political and a little different and even in its logo, encourages its residents to “feel free.” On any given day at Weaver Street, this attitude is reflected in the type of people sitting out on the lawn: families chatting with each other while gaggles of small children play, older folks doing tai chi or rolling out their yoga mats, and young activists meeting about campus issues.
A study of cooperatives and their link to community development found another bonus of the cooperative model: Weaver Street can “pursue social objectives that would not be provided by purely profit-oriented firms” ((Zeuli and Radel 52). Weaver Street is able to link itself to social justice causes, which is easy for its employees, customers, and other community members to pick up on. Cecilia Beard, a sophomore at the UNC who has worked at Weaver Street for almost two years, said in an interview, “I associate Weaver Street Market with a sense of consciousness when it comes to workers’ rights, fair trade and equity. I think of a community that goes beyond just a grocery store.” By getting as political and progressive the politically and progressive town that it is located in, Weaver Street is able to connect more deeply with its base.
The benefits of being embedded in a community are numerous, but it’s getting harder to find one. A study on the role of public space in community says that “ironically, as our awareness of the benefits of a strong sense of community grows, there are concerns that sense of community is declining throughout the Western world” (Francis et al. 401). But in a time where everything seems to be getting too big too fast, it’s comforting to know that I can still walk the seven minutes from my little house on Broad Street across the train tracks to get a cup of coffee and spend an hour with a good book on the lawn with Carrboro locals from all walks of life.
There’s no denying that Weaver Street has grown throughout the years, but the expansion of the store mirrors the expansion of Carrboro itself — as both have grown, they have still stayed true to their roots. And that’s part of what makes it so special.
Francis, Jacinta, et al. “Creating Sense of Community: The Role of Public Space.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 32, no. 4, Dec. 2012, pp. 401-409, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2012.07.002.
Zeuli, Kimberly and Jamie Radel. “Cooperatives as a Community Development Strategy: Linking Theory and Practice.” The Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy, vol. 1, no. 35, 2005, pp. 43-54, http://staging.community-wealth.org/sites/clone.community-wealth.org/files/downloads/article-zueli-radel.pdf.