By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

It has yet to open, but organizers behind Whitewater’s planned grocery store cooperative had their first meeting this week.

Members of the cooperative, operating under the name Whitewater Grocery Co., gathered Wednesday. A number of organizational matters, including the selection of a board of directors and the selection of a steering committee, took place at the meeting.

City Manager Cameron Clapper discussed the status of the cooperative at a Common Council meeting Oct. 17. Membership into the organization has continued to climb, he said.

Clapper reported 240 members have joined the cooperative at last week’s meeting. However, on press deadline Wednesday morning, the cooperative continued to boost its numbers to 271 members, as noted on the group’s Facebook page.

While an organizational meeting has taken place, a number of questions continue to permeate, including where the Whitewater Grocery Co. will be located and when it will open.

Based on conversations he has had with cooperative representatives, Clapper said the group is pursuing a market study that will be aimed at answering some of the lingering questions.

The study, Clapper said, would help cooperative leaders be “more specific with the size and scope of operations, moving forward.” It also could help in pinpointing the cooperative’s target market.

Based on his interactions with the cooperative’s organizers, Clapper said he has been impressed by their efforts thus far. By working carefully and methodically, he said their efforts are moving toward well-reasoned recommendations.

“The efforts of this group appear to be much more down-to-earth than some critics might state,” Clapper said.

Discussion of operating a grocery cooperative within Whitewater picked up steam in early 2016 and came on the heels of a pivotal announcement within Whitewater’s business community.

Nearly two years ago, local businessman Terry Daniels closed his Sentry store at 1260 W. Main St., citing declining sales. A Walmart Supercenter, located adjacent to the former Sentry site, is the sole food store outlet in the community, though it is not considered a full-service grocer.

In addition to the cooperative effort, the city’s Community Development Authority has been working to land a traditional grocer back into the city.

Although there are not any firm leads at this time, Council President Patrick Singer, who sits on the CDA, said the group’s efforts have not stopped.

Singer said Dave Carlson, the newly hired executive director of the Whitewater CDA, has been pursuing all possible avenues.

“He’s been reaching out to different opportunities and vendors and working that angle,” Singer said of the traditional grocery store pursuit. “There’s been nothing so far, though.”

Early this year, CDA members tossed around possible full-service grocers for the city.

Piggly Wiggly or Pick ‘n Save parent Kroger were cited as possible opportunities at the time.

Former CDA chair Jeff Knight at the time said German-based no-frills grocer Aldi was off the table because the city’s population did not jive with the company’s business model.

 

 
 

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