Viroqua Food Co+op Blog

Cultivating Community: Viroqua Food Co-op's second decade

Posted by Patricia Cumbie on Tue, Aug 04, 2015 @ 12:23 PM

The anticipation was finally over. In 2005, the Viroqua Food Co-op had moved from its tiny, funky digs behind Nelson’s Agri-Center into a brand new 4,400 square foot retail at 609 North Main Street. It was a gorgeous facility, vibrant with color and fresh food. Pride was evident in the way people talked about the Co-op. It was not only a grocery store, but a community gathering place. There was finally a place to sit and meet your neighbors.

Nearly everything had changed overnight. The new building gave the Co-op newfound presence and legitimacy in the community, and in the span of one year the Co-op doubled its sales and ownership. General Manager Jan Rasikas noted that the demands of this remarkable popularity meant that to meet the needs of a whole new group of people the Co-op also had to institute systems behind the scenes. Both staff and Board had to adjust to new roles and responsibilities, and create infrastructure to accommodate the growth.

Change, even when it is welcome, involves a learning curve and sometimes stress. A massive uptick in sales volume meant staff had to figure out, and quickly, new technologies to track the flow of goods in numerous departments. The deli, which hadn’t existed before, had to acquire food service expertise and deliver dishes that would be well-liked by customers. The need for customer service and education grew exponentially. More staff meant more systems to support their work. Doing all of that successfully required a significant commitment from everyone involved. It was all hands on deck.

Jackie Rebman, VFC’s Customer Service Manager, started at the Co-op in 2005, six weeks before the move. Hired as a cashier, she became the Customer Service Manager after a year. Along with Staff Services Manager Alycann Taylor, who started in 2007, they focused their energies on training and internal support services for staff. That’s one significant reason why employees are so friendly and helpful at the Co-op. Due to management and staff efforts, a strong work culture developed at VFC, one based on mutual respect and collaboration, rewarded by good wages and benefits.

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