Our Story

In 2011, a missing ingredient sparked a movement. Today, Bethlehem Co-op Market stands as a beacon of community-driven change, with over 1,500 member-owners united in creating a resilient local food system. Explore the milestones that shaped our co-op’s remarkable evolution!

Our History

2011: The Red Pepper Story
In October 2011, Jaime Karpovich was preparing a recipe when she realized she was missing one ingredient: a single red pepper. An hour later, she returned from the grocery store and, with a single social media post, connected with 100 people who also dreamed of purchasing fresh food in Bethlehem. The first gathering was held at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, where we decided to start a food co-op.

2012: Cultivating the Vision
Our grassroots movement blossomed. We chose our name – Bethlehem Food Co-Op – and created our logo. We held our first community meetings, formed essential committees, and drafted our mission statement. By year’s end, we had over 100 enthusiastic members ready to nurture this vision into reality.

2013: Laying the Groundwork
We incorporated as a cooperative and launched our official membership drive, hosting our first member-owner gathering at Monocacy Park. Our board attended key conferences, learning from established co-ops. We began exploring potential store locations and developed our first business plan. The co-op community grew to over 300 members.

2014: Building Momentum
Membership surged past 500 as we ramped up community outreach. We conducted our first market study and began serious discussions about store locations. The board focused on governance and policy development, setting a strong foundation for our future store.

2015: Strengthening Our Roots
We hit 600 members and launched our Member Benefits Program, partnering with local businesses. Our committees evolved, focusing on finance, outreach, and education. We began hosting regular educational events, deepening our community connections.

2016: Planning for Growth
With over 700 members, we started serious capital campaign planning. We formed a Real Estate Committee to evaluate potential store locations. Our education programs expanded, offering classes on nutrition, cooking, and sustainable food systems.

2017: Sowing Seeds for the Future
Membership grew to 800+ as we launched our “1000 Members by 2018” campaign. We received our first major grant and began partnerships with local community organizations. Our sourcing committee started building relationships with local producers.

2018: Cultivating Partnerships
We crossed the 900-member mark and secured several significant grants. Partnerships with local organizations flourished, including collaborations with farmers and food banks. We finalized our business plan and intensified our search for the perfect store location.

2019: Selecting our Future Home
Excitement built as we signed a lease for our future store location at 250 E. Broad St. We launched our capital campaign and membership soared past 1,000. Our focus shifted to store design and planning for construction.

2020: Adapting and Thriving
Despite global challenges, we persevered. We hired Simplified Business Solutions, our project management team, with the knowledge and expertise to bring our community-owned grocery store to life. Membership reached 1,200 as our community recognized the importance of local, resilient food systems. We made significant progress on store planning and design.

2021: From Dream to Reality
Membership surpassed 1,300, we launched our Community Investment Fund, and received several major grants. Our partnerships with local producers and community organizations deepened as we prepared for opening.

2022: Building Our Future
With over 1,400 members, we hired key personnel, including our General Manager. We finalized the store layout, selected Aurora Displays for interior design, and finalized our Prepared Foods plan. Our community engagement reached new heights with events, educational programs, and partnerships.

2023: The Final Stretch
Membership crossed 1,400 as excitement built for our impending opening and construction progressed on the building at 250 E. Broad St. Inspired by other co-ops on the West Coast, we decided to feature local art in our store in a big way, creating a 350-square-foot mural as the focal point. We launched our search for a Lehigh Valley muralist to work on our project.

2024: Welcome to Our Store
This is the year we’ve all been waiting for! With over 1,500 member-owners, we launched our “Be A Part of the Art” store-mural campaign with Matt Halm, hired our Marketing & Membership Coordinator, selected Boyle Construction for the interior fit-out of our store, and launched our new brand, Bethlehem Co-op Market. We’re thrilled to open the doors of our community-owned grocery store this year!

The Red Pepper

In October 2011, Jaime Karpovich was preparing a recipe when she realized she was missing one ingredient: a single red pepper. An hour later, she returned from the grocery store and, with a single social media post, connected with 100 people who also dreamed of purchasing fresh food in Bethlehem. The first gathering was held at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, where we decided to start a food co-op.

Cultivating the Vision

Our grassroots movement blossomed. We chose our name – Bethlehem Food Co-Op – and created our logo. We held our first community meetings, formed essential committees, and drafted our mission statement. By year’s end, we had over 100 enthusiastic members ready to nurture this vision into reality.

Laying the Groundwork

We incorporated as a cooperative and launched our official membership drive, hosting our first member-owner gathering at Monocacy Park. Our board attended key conferences, learning from established co-ops. We began exploring potential store locations and developed our first business plan. The co-op community grew to over 300 members.

Building Momentum

Membership surged past 500 as we ramped up community outreach. We conducted our first market study and began serious discussions about store locations. The board focused on governance and policy development, setting a strong foundation for our future store.

Strengthening Our Roots

We hit 600 members and launched our Member Benefits Program, partnering with local businesses. Our committees evolved, focusing on finance, outreach, and education. We began hosting regular educational events, deepening our community connections.

Planning for Growth

With over 700 members, we started serious capital campaign planning. We formed a Real Estate Committee to evaluate potential store locations. Our education programs expanded, offering classes on nutrition, cooking, and sustainable food systems.

Sowing Seeds for the Future

Membership grew to 800 as we launched our “1000 Members by 2018” campaign. We received our first major grant and began partnerships with local community organizations. Our sourcing committee started building relationships with local producers.

Cultivating Partnerships

We crossed the 900-member mark and secured several significant grants. Partnerships with local organizations flourished, including collaborations with farmers and food banks. We finalized our business plan and intensified our search for the perfect store location.

Selecting our Future Home

Excitement built as we signed a lease for our future store location at 250 E. Broad St. We launched our capital campaign and membership soared past 1,000! Our focus shifted to store design and planning for construction.

Adapting and Thriving

Despite global challenges, we persevered. We hired Simplified Business Solutions, our project management team, with the knowledge and expertise to bring our community-owned grocery store to life. Membership reached 1,200 as our community recognized the importance of local, resilient food systems. We made significant progress on store planning and design.

From Dream to Reality

Membership surpassed 1,300, we launched our Community Investment Fund, and received several major grants. Our partnerships with local producers and community organizations deepened as we prepared for opening.

Building Our Future

With over 1,400 members, we hired key personnel, including our General Manager. We finalized the store layout, selected Aurora Displays for interior design, and finalized our Prepared Foods plan. Our community engagement reached new heights with events, educational programs, and partnerships.

The Final Stretch

Membership crossed 1,400 as excitement built for our impending opening and construction progressed on the building at 250 E. Broad St. Inspired by other co-ops on the West Coast, we decided to feature local art in our store in a big way, creating a 350-square-foot mural as the focal point. We launched our search for a Lehigh Valley muralist to work on our project.

Welcome to Our Store

This is the year we’ve all been waiting for! With over 1,500 member-owners, we launched our “Be A Part of the Art” store-mural campaign with Matt Halm, hired our Marketing & Membership Coordinator, selected Boyle Construction for the interior fit-out of our store, and launched our new brand, Bethlehem Co-op Market. We’re thrilled to open the doors of our community-owned grocery store this year!

People browsing co-op market stall
Window being painted with co-op branding

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Co-op market booth with staff and information displays
Group of people outdoors holding up large letters spelling we want our won grocery store