Oshkosh Food Co-op, Northeast Wisconsin’s first community-owned grocery store, will open its doors to the public this week with an opening ceremony at noon Thursday. Following the ceremony, shoppers will be welcomed into the store to shop for the first time.
In 2011, UW Oshkosh student, Bridgette Weber learned Oshkosh did not have a food co-op and decided to take action. She brought together a group of community members to research the idea and in 2013, the Oshkosh Food Co-op incorporated. The initial steering committee transformed into a Board of Directors and began an eight-year journey of market research, community education, business and financial planning, site selection, and building relationships with local suppliers. Then followed a capital campaign, construction, equipment installation, hiring, and preparing the store to open.
The Oshkosh Food Co-op will target 20% of its sales from locally sourced goods from growers, producers, and farmers within 100 miles. The store-opening brings fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, packaged goods, and grab-and-go items to a low-income, low-access neighborhood that has been designated by the US Department of Agriculture as a food desert.
Oshkosh Food Co-op features two seating areas and will be the first food co-op in the nation to offer a Chatty Checkout, a slow lane, to help combat social isolation. Co-op member-owners are committed to inclusiveness, and welcome all in the community to shop in the store.
Several events will mark the co-op’s opening:
Thursday: Opening ceremony at noon in the parking lot west of the store. The story will be open for shopping with giveaways for customers from noon-8 p.m. At 5 p.m., Oshkosh Food Co-op Board of Directors will hold Party on the Patio. The patio is located on the east side of the store and visible form Jackson Drive.
Friday: First full day of shopping, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Aug. 3 – Ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m.
Sept. 9-11 – Grand Opening
The store will add 30 jobs to the local economy. Oshkosh Food Co-op General Manager, Jeffrey Thouron, leads a team of 10 full-time and 20 part-time associates.
“I’m thrilled with the team we have put together for the Co-op. All are excited to open the store, learn what our customers want, and meet their needs,” Thouron said. “We want to be a favorite destination where people in our community gather around food.”
The Food Co-op is a member of National Co+op Grocers (NCG,) an alliance of 148 food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG provides purchasing and promotional programming in addition to marketing and retail support. A National Co+op Grocers team of food co-op experts has been working with the Oshkosh Food Co-op board and staff for months to prepare the store for launch and have been on-site to assist in store set-up and staff training.
The co-op, owned by more than 1,650 member-owners, is located at 155 Jackson St. on the first floor of the Brio Building. Store hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. To learn more about becoming a member-owner, visit www.oshkoshfoodcoop.com/join.