The fastest growing cooperatively-owned grocery store startup in the country, Whitewater Grocery Co. (WWGROCO), is up to almost 500 owners after a little over a year since incorporation. Things are moving fast, and the local community-owned grocery store initiative is inviting its owners to a second Annual Owners’ Meeting to review the next stages of the process and discuss potential sites for a full-service grocery store. Whitewater, with a population of more than 14,000, has been without a full-service grocery since 2015 when Sentry grocery store closed its doors.
The event, which will be both a celebration of progress and an update on what is needed next, will take place at the UW-Whitewater University Center Hamilton Room from 4 pm to 7 pm on Sunday, October 14.
”The commitment and dedication from our community is what has gotten us this far and made us the fastest growing community-owned grocery initiative in the nation,” said WWGROCO Board President Lacey Reichwald. Reichwald, who has been asked to speak to other groups around the Midwest about Whitewater’s success, has often described the motivation as “simple.” “Just have your only grocery store go out of business,” she says. “With over 14,000 people having to rely only on the partial grocery options of a Walmart, people get mobilized quickly.”
Since then, the WWGROCO has defied all predictions and grown to nearly 500 owners. The WWGROCO is well on its way to reaching the next milestone in the planning process which includes fine-tuning a business plan and “pro-forma” outlining the milestones required for the venture to be profitable. The group is ready to pursue a second and more comprehensive market study. In addition, the second Annual Meeting will focus on the work that has been done toward selecting a potential site, vote on open Board of Director positions, and vote on a potential expansion of the Board.
The meeting will be open to WWGROCO members and their household members. New owners can RSVP by calling the WWGROCO office at 262-472-1218. Regular business hours are Mondays 11-2, Wednesdays 2-6, and 11-2 on Fridays.
Initial plans are pointing toward a full-service grocery roughly the size of mid-range stores such as Aldi or Trader Joe’s. Owners, community members, and several city officials have indicated a sense of urgency in getting a full-service grocery, and the Whitewater Grocery Co. is answering that call. The total time it will take to open a store depends upon many factors, and owners will hear a discussion about the next phases of the process and the required milestones.
Whitewater Grocery Co. officially incorporated in March of 2017. In October of 2017 at the first Annual Meeting members helped shape a mission and vision and formally elected a Board of Directors. The organization has established an office in the UW-Whitewater Innovation Center and has been actively seeking new members, learning how other community-owned grocery stores have been successful, raising funds, hiring consultants, and taking an initial look at potential locations.
New owners can sign up at the Annual Meeting or online at www.whitewatergrocery.co. The WWGROCO thanks the University of Wisconsin Whitewater for providing the space for our owners to meet and helping spread the word among students and faculty that they will soon have a full-service grocery store in Whitewater that will be able to meet the community’s grocery needs.