The history of the Viroqua Food Cooperative
The Viroqua Food Co+op began as a natural foods buying club organized by a small group of individuals who worked together to provide their families with healthy foods. In the fall of 1995 we opened our first store in a rented space at 303 N. Center St. in Viroqua.
Despite the limited space and out-of the-way location, our little Co-op began to grow and thrive. In 1999 we renovated our modest space and expanded the retail space to 920 square feet to meet the needs of our growing membership.
Just ten years after opening at the first location, with an ever growing membership, we completed construction of our new store at 609 N. Main St. with a retail space of 4,400 square feet, more than four and a half times greater!
More than 100 new members joined the first three days the store opened. In the year following the move the Co-op went from 15 employees to 50. Membership increased to 1,700, and sales grew to $2.6 million. By the end of our second year in the new store, our membership had grown to over 2,000 and sales were $3.1 million.
In 2012, VFC embarked on an extensive planning and evaluation process to address the needs for growth. The Board of Directors used the same process to engage owners as they did in 2002 – starting with a Community Conversation followed by several years of study, a market study, an owner survey, and many in-person events to gather owner input.
Construction began the summer of 2017, and completed in late 2018. VFC doubled its retail square feet, staying open while new walls were literally being built around the existing building.
The expanded Co-op features a significantly larger deli; a bakery with made-from-scratch baked goods and a greater selection of wheat-free goods; a meat department with room for meat processing along with a greater selection of meat and seafood. A larger produce area has a direct link to supporting our local farmers and food producers. A new community room gives us opportunities to share information on health and nutrition.
23 years after our humble beginnings, VFC now has more than 4,000 owners and employs over 60 people. While over 70 percent of sales come from our committed owner-members, everyone is welcome to shop at the Viroqua Food Co+op.
Viroqua Food Cooperative strives to be an active partner in our community. We support dozens of local growers and producers by providing a retail outlet for their products. VFC contributes to our community by sponsoring educational events and donating to local organizations. We recognize that practicing good business citizenship supports the mission of our Co-op and will help raise the overall level of social and economic well being in our community!
The Viroqua Food Cooperative combines a commitment to natural foods, superior customer service and building a cooperative business. We emphasize organic and local foods and products to promote the long-term health of individuals and the environment. As member-owners and as a center for community, we offer the opportunity to create together a work of enduring value.