Apr 14, 2013

Grocery store in Plain may get new lease on life as food co-op

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal

By Barry Adams

Some are retired and spend Wednesday afternoons playing Michigan rummy and kibitzing in the community center.

Others have day jobs at Kraemer Brothers Construction, Peoples Community Bank, Cedar Grove Cheese and MadREP, a Madison-based economic development agency that serves an eight county region. One works at Whole Foods in Madison and another is the marketing director at Culver’s Franchising Systems in Prairie du Sac.

Together, in varying roles, they’re working to insure Phil’s Foods, the village’s lone grocery store, remains a part of the economic and social fabric of the downtown here, a role it has played for over 100 years.

If they’re successful, the 6,400-square-foot store at the corner of Alma and Main streets will become a co-op known as Honey Creek Market.

“We have seen just an overwhelming response in this community to a co-op initiative,” said Carolyn Forde, the village’s library director and co-chairwoman of the co-op board. “The first reason I’m convinced it will work is that we have the will.”

There are 31 grocery co-operatives in Wisconsin, according to Courtney Berner, an outreach specialist with the UW-Madison Center for Cooperatives. Most focus on natural foods and can take two to five years to get off the ground. Deerfield, Baraboo, Oshkosh and Green Bay are among the communities working on creating co-ops.

It’s likely Plain will beat all of them to the punch and has learned from the struggles and success of the Yahara River Co-op in Stoughton and others around the state.

The Plain effort was launched last July after Gene Dalhoff, then the executive director of the Sauk County Development Corporation, attended a cooperative business conference at UW-Madison. Dalhoff is now with MadREP.

Read the full article.