Fair & Square in Chester, Pa.

Fare & Square is a gem of a little supermarket that opened in inner city Chester, Pa., in late September. Operated by Philabundance, the Philadelphia-based food bank that services the Delaware Valley, it is being billed as the first “nonprofit supermarket” in the U.S.

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Fare & Square in Chester, Pa.

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Fare & Square uses a purple carrot as its logo. It evolved from an original logo that featured an orange carrot and a purple fork.

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The building housing Fare & Square had been vacant since 2001, when the previous tenant, West End Food Center, the last of Chester’s one time five supermarkets, closed its doors. However, the building dates back to the 1950s and was originally a Penn Fruit Co. store. Remnants of Penn Fruit, including the barrel roof and huge marquee sign, still remain.

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Fare & Square shares the building with a Family Dollar discount store, which has its entrance in the front part of the building.

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As a result, the Fare & Square entrance is a nondescript one on the building’s side.

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Plenty of free parking is available in the rear, but since most Chester residents do not own cars and walk to the store, the lot is often empty.

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A key mission of Fare & Square is to bring affordable food – especially produce, meat and other perishables – to an underserved low-income populace, say store officials Paul Messina, store director (in purple shirt at the left), and Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance.

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Produce is a big seller at Fare & Square.

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Until the store opened, Chester residents were unable to buy a head of lettuce in town.

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Collard greens are a big seller among Fare & Square’s predominantly African-American clientele.

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The bulk of the produce items are your basic staples, but there are some unusual ethnic specialties, including yucca root, name and batata root.

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Area residents love the Deli department, featured on the far wall of the rectangular-shaped store.

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The Deli features Dietz & Watson luncheon meats.

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Rolls from local in-town bakery Buono Bros. are stocked in front of the deli case.

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Although the meat at Fare & Square is self-service, there is a butcher on the premises.

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Fresh meat has been a hit with Fare & Square shoppers who previously had to travel out of town to Pathmark, Giant or Sam & Sam to buy meat.

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Smoked turkey wings are a very good seller.

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As is fresh chicken. Fare & Square’s prices are noticeably cheaper than Pathmark and Giant.

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In an unusual arrangement, Fare & Square’s milk is supplied by convenience-store chain Wawa.

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Fare & Square contains four aisles and 16,000 SKUs.

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An end cap is devoted to baking supplies; most residents choose to bake from scratch because it is cheaper than shopping in a service bakery.

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The product mix is still being tweaked. Many upscale items have not been selling well. This $5.99 bottle of Camp Pure Maple Syrup has a red price sticker, meaning it is on “probation” and in danger of being culled.

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Unfortunately this bottle of Wish-Bone salad dressing failed its probation. The black dot means it is being discontinued.

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Even though Fare & Square is run by a food bank it still stocks nonfoods essentials, like laundry detergent and paper products. They are merchandised along the side wall.

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There is also a limited assortment of dog and cat food.

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A mural along the side wall pays homage to the City of Chester.

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Founded in 1682, Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania and even predates its more famous neighbor Philadelphia.

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Chester is the home of the nation’s first Mother’s Day Parade.

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The city’s many religions get along well together and foster a sense of community.

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Residents see themselves as being a tight-knit bunch.

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Chester High’s basketball team consistently wins championships.

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And the cheerleaders aren’t bad either!

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The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Community Center is located at the front of the store as part of the Service Desk area. Staffed by volunteers, it is designed to help residents with assistance with everyday problems like medical issues, job searches, home improvement, etc.

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The front wall of the store has plaques dedicated to Fare & Square’s Founding Partners. These are corporations, foundations and individuals who donated money to purchase the building and get the store up and running.

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Cheez Whiz, Fare & Square is a helluva great store!

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All things considered, that is why management is pursuing opening branches in other food deserts, like certain areas of Philadelphia.

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