Wild Root Market is one step closer to opening a co-operative grocery store with the help of a $10,000 grant from the Food Co-op Initiative.

The food co-op model allows community members to buy shares in a for-profit store, but it is democratically controlled by its members. So they 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 over 800 co-op members that want to see a food co-op open in Racine.

Organizers close to securing possible site

Rose Nelson, president of Wild Root, said the group has a site under consideration. But she was not at liberty to say if there was an offer on the table.

“It’s difficult to say anything more about a possible site,” Nelson said. “But we hope to make an announcement soon. We’re just not going to announce where that site is going to be until we’ve secured the building.”

Typically starting up a food co-op takes about three to nine years. Wild Root is coming up on its fifth year. A market study done last year indicated that all four sites the group looked at were viable, even with Festival Foods opening in Mount Pleasant. Depending on which site the group chooses, the cost, including working capital, is estimated to be between $3 to $4 million.

Wild Root vice president Margie Michicich said that the group is right on track with its three-stage development model, which included fundraising, planning and design, and implementation.

“We’re almost at the end of phase 2 now,” Michicich said.

The grant, however, will allow the group to do further design consulting, a financial feasibility study and another market study if needed.

Wild Root receives accolades

Wild Root Market been named as “one to watch” by the Food Co-Op Initiative, a non profit that helps food co-op development. The group made the funds available through a Seed Grant that is funded by the USDA Rural Cooperative Grant, Blooming Prairie Foundation, National Cooperative Bank, National Co-op Grocers and the food co-op community.

The grant also comes with board and team monitoring, site evaluation assistance from co-op development experts, help with kicking off a capital campaign, and mentoring on marketing and membership growth, according to a press release by Wild Root.

“FCI staff have been impressed with the strong mentoring relationship Wild Root has developed with the Outpost Co-op in Milwaukee,” said Stuart Reid, executive director of the Food Co-Op Initiative. “Combined with excellent market potential and store plans that can serve their community well, Wild Root is a winner.”

Nelson and Michicich are pleased to have earned the grant and support from the Food Co-Op Initiative because it validates the work that Wild Root has accomplished for so long.

“They see the commitment we have made in achieving our mission,” Michicich said.

But Nelson also underscored the need for the group to keep focused on fundraising, which is why they have partnered with the Racine Zoo to offer new members and existing members who make referrals the chance to win two family memberships in a drawing.

For more information about Wild Root, click here.


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