Several VFC events occurred during the past few months and all of them included conversations regarding limited space at the Viroqua Food Co-op. There was the Community Conversation last October, the Management Team Strategic Operations Planning Retreat (see photo below) this last January and two recent Coffee with the Board events.
The board, owners and staff have discussed the Co-op’s continued growth and the resulting need for more space. The space issues that were addressed include: shelving space for products, seating space, deli and hot bar space, educational space, meat counter space, juice bar space, kid’s play space, even a gastro-pub space. All this while the Co-op is working on completing its latest expansion which aims to add more product storage space, cooler and freezer space, as well as truck unloading space on the building’s south side.
The Co-op continues to grow with the addition of new owners, increased sales and additional staff. This growth reflects the success of providing fresh, local, organic foods and superior customer service, which in return creates an increased awareness of the value of locally produced natural foods and healthy products in this community. These successes create the opportunity to continue to expand in a thoughtful and productive way.
By working with consultants from the Cooperative Development Services (CDS) the Co-op’s board and staff are sifting through the ideas and measuring the needs of the membership to affect a financially sound and community supported plan for a sustainable and well thought out program for the next phase of the Co-op’s growth.
It is hard to believe that it has been less than ten years since the Co-op’s move, from the small building on Center Avenue to the current store building. During that time there have been several changes in this facility as the Co-op’s growth pushes the physical limits of the site and literal structure of the building. The addition of parking space across the street, the movement of administrative staff out of the store and into rented office spaces also across the street, and now the construction of additional on-site storage space have all provided interim relief.
Several ideas mentioned during recent events include: the limited expansion of the existing building into the adjoining parking lot, a more complex and costly expansion upward, an additional structure on a nearby site, satellite facilities in nearby towns, repurposing an existing building in town for our expansion needs, etc. Which future direction is most workable? Which one can we afford? Which one allows us to continue to meet our Co-op’s mission?
The answer will not be found this month or next. Over the next year we will apply due diligence, thoughtful planning and continued discussion with you, our Owners. Democratic Member Control is one of our seven cooperative principles. As your representatives, the Board wants your continued input in this process and we strive to keep you informed throughout the journey. Please feel free to contact us with your thoughts and opinions.
VFC Board of Directors