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wild-root-market-logoWhile the potential site locations for the Wild Root Market haven’t been released, the group of volunteers looking to start the food co-op have a short list of four sites in Racine they are looking at leasing.

A recent market study indicated that all four sites the group is looking at are viable, even with Festival Foods opening in Mount Pleasant in December. However, it will still need tweaked to include the impact of the closure of Pick’n Save, which announced it would close its 2210 Rapids Drive location by the end of the year.

Marcia Buhler, vice president of the Wild Root Market board, said she understands that some people may be getting frustrated with the process.

“All of the sites are viable in what they can produce on revenue,” Buhler said. “The study looked a number of factors in determining the number of people with the ‘propensity to buy natural foods.'”

But each site has a different cost structure that the group is still trying to get a handle on with their realtor. In the meantime, the group doesn’t want to lose the sites by divulging which ones they are looking at leasing. They expect to have those cost estimates and have the site selection process completed in the next two to three months, Buhler said.

The cost of the project is estimated at $2 to $3 million. Once the site selection and cost estimates have been completed, the group hopes to start an owner loan campaign where members can choose to invest in the business. About half of that money is expected to be raised from the loan campaign, the remaining funds will likely come from a traditional bank and grants.

“It’s not a requirement for members to invest, it’s optional,” Buhler said. “But lenders will look whether there is support for the project from our investors.”

But this isn’t the first time the group has pursued a site.

The Wild Root Market board announced in June that it wouldn’t be able to secure the former Piggly Wiggly grocery store at 1101 Grove Ave. Organizers leading the effort noted in a blog that they had a contract with the owners of the site that was contingent on developing renovation and store furnishing/equipment estimates, but the site was too costly to move forward with the deal.

The food co-op model allows community members to buy shares in a for-profit, but democratically controlled grocery store as members would have a vote in how the store would be operated. The Wild Root Market board, operated by volunteers, started in the fall of 2011 and now has 784 co-op members that want to see a food co-op open in Racine.

The goal, however, is to have 1,500 members by the time the store opens, which is expected to happen sometime this fall.

“I know it seems like this has been a long-time in coming, but all the consultants and food co-ops that have advised us through this process say that it’s a four to six-year process,” she said. “But we know that once we announce we’ll have no problem getting to our goal.”

The updated market study, financial reports and next steps for the group will be discussed at an annual member-owners meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20 at Gateway Technical College, 1001 S. Main St., in the conference center.






Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.