by Mary Nearpass
Many of us have childhood dreams, but except for winners of “American Idol” and “The Voice” and some others, most of us probably do not realize the fulfillment of those dreams. Keith Kelleher, however, is one who has. Born and raised in “the Christmas City” (Bethlehem, in the Lehigh Valley), Keith, a member of the Weavers Way grocery staff for 10 years, is also doing the very first thing he ever aspired to do as a little boy — become a part-time disc jockey, which he is now doing for WXPN-FM in Philadelphia and WDIY-FM in Allentown.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Kelleher recently on his 50th birthday. The youngest of three children, Keith is a graduate of Bethlehem Catholic High School. He continued his education studying radio, television and film at Northampton County Community College, followed by Temple University. Wanting to become a cinematographer, he began doing utility work for the television Sports Network, ESPN. He had the opportunity to travel all over the East Coast, covering major golf tournaments and stock car races. Additionally, he dabbled in film as a production assistant and provided food service on some major film sets (like “Dead Poets Society”) and meeting several celebrities.
In 2003, Keith “just needed a change” and wound up being a “manny” for four young children of a close friend in Sudbury, Massachusetts, for 18 months. When Keith returned to the Philadelphia area, he needed a job, and a friend told him about Weavers Way. He had worked at a food store when he was younger. “I always knew about Weavers Way, so I thought I’d give it a try. The stress-free atmosphere, friendly people and the whole community thing appealed to me. I work in grocery receiving meat, fish, produce, a big company order from UNFI, America’s premier certified organic distributor. It’s like a Whole Foods market specializing in organic foods.”
In May of 2010, Weavers Way, which has been in Mt. Airy since September of 1974, opened a second location in Chestnut Hill at 8424 Germantown Ave., which had previously housed Caruso’s Market for just over 100 years. “That same year, members voted to make the community work requirement optional,” said Keith, “and to open shopping completely to non-members. There is a farm attached at the Mt. Airy location and a huge community program where people work at an all-organic produce farm.”
Weavers Way began 40 years ago with about 500 members. Today it has over 5,000 families.
“It’s a very great place to work,” said Keith, who works full-time at the Mt. Airy location, “very mellow, very freeing, a friendly place where you get to watch the children grow up before your very eyes, and it attracts people from all walks of life.”
That little boy voice in the back of Keith’s mind and his passion for music never did go away, so in his free time he became a phone volunteer at radio station WXPN and found out about WDIY in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley’s public radio station. WDIY (“Do It Yourself”) plays an eclectic mix of music. Within weeks, after touring the set and submitting an air check, Keith began subbing on the air until he eventually moved into the Wednesday, 1-4 p.m., time slot on a show called, “The Blend.” He plays a mix of rock, pop, blues, and beyond. During his time on air, which is mostly listened to via streaming the internet, Keith also takes birthday wishes and does tributes to artists who died recently, such as Joe Cocker.
Keith is able to fit the show into his schedule because he works Saturdays instead of Wednesdays at Weavers Way. Every Wednesday morning he drives to Bethlehem for his Wednesday afternoon radio show, after which he returns to Philly.
In the spring of 2013 Keith learned of the fact that long-time host of “Sleepy Hollow,” Keith Brand, was retiring after 27 years on WXPN, so the time slot that Brand had filled was now open at 6-8 a.m. on Sundays. “Musically,” said Kelleher, “Sleepy Hollow blends jazz, folk, instrumental and contemporary acoustic music where mood and music combine to create a warm and relaxing weekend morning experience.
“I just had this feeling like this is it, that I have to go for this. I had been listening for 25 years, so I went for it and got a call back.” And Keith has been hosting “Sleepy Hollow” ever since. When asked if he himself was musical, Keith replied, “I do sing, but I don’t play any instruments … I sing just for fun … I pretty much listen to everything.”
Keith is now like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Five days a week he works at Weavers Way, and the other two days he hosts radio shows. “It’s like every day is Christmas,” he said. “You get to go through all the piles of new music and pick and choose what you want to play! I have the best of both worlds. I get to sell good food products and play good music that isn’t junk. Some semblance of giving people quality not only in what they are eating, but in what they are listening to.”
For more information, visit www.weaversway.coop.