BY MARGIE MICHICICH
After receiving $643,000 in grants, and raising $713,400 in owner investments as of mid-August, Wild Root Market continues the current phase of its Owner Investment Program. The Racine-based consumer-owned grocery co-op currently has 1,141 owners and has raised over 63 percent of its $1.125 million goal for the estimated $5 million project.
In May, the city awarded the co-op a $390,000 grant that included a $100,000 challenge grant, which has since been secured. That same month, the co-op was also awarded a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. In July, Wild Root Market received a $3,000 grant from the UNFI Foundation. The grants represent a huge vote of confidence for the economic opportunities the co-op will bring to the community, according to co-op leaders.
Wild Root Market still needs to raise an additional $411,600 from owners for the project to proceed. The co-op has an accepted offer to purchase the building at 500 Walton Avenue in Racine and pre-commitments for primary financing. Financing for the project depends on owner loans as the down payment.
“Our goal is to wrap up financing by the end of summer, close on the property, and start construction by the end of the year so we can open in 2019,” said Rose Nelson, Wild Root board president.
Depending on the amount invested, Wild Root Market owners can earn one to five percent on their loans. To date, more than 150 owners have made loans.
“We are so grateful for those owners who have made loans or donations, but we need more owners to step forward,” said Gloria Randall Hewitt, board vice president. “It’s an exciting opportunity to make an investment that will directly benefit the Racine community.”
While fundraising is currently the priority for Wild Root Market, store plans are shaping up, a search for a general manager is underway, and ownership is growing. Preliminary designs for the full-service grocery store include approximately 8,000 square feet of retail space, a deli with prepared foods, and indoor and outdoor seating areas.
The co-op is expected to generate $5 million in sales in its first year and create 40 jobs with benefits, including management, mid-level, and entry-level positions, according to Jacqueline Hannah, assistant director of Food Co-op Initiative, who helped Wild Root Market develop its local impact projections.
Wild Root Market owners are funding more than a neighborhood grocery store. Guided by cooperative principles including concern for community and education, Wild Root Market expects to donate $20,000 annually to local charities, develop an innovative food access program for low-income customers, and offer educational classes to promote home cooking and healthy eating.
“The potential community benefits are huge,” Hannah said.
Anyone interested in joining the co-op can purchase an ownership share at wildrootmarket.coop. The one-time fee of $200 can be paid in full or in installments. Owners of Wild Root Market who are interested in making a loan may call (262) 770-5114 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request a loan packet.
While only owners can make loans to the co-op, anyone can make a tax-deductible donation. As a for-profit business, Wild Root Market receives donations through a fiscal agent. Donors may send checks payable to Cooperative Development Fund of CDS to Wild Root Market, P.O. Box 443, Racine, WI 53401.
And all are welcome to shop at Wild Root Market when it opens.
Margie Michicich is a founding member Wild Root Market and secretary of its Board of Directors.