OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) — The Oshkosh Food Co-op will launch a $1.6 million capital campaign this week to open a grocery store in the heart of Oshkosh, at the corner of Jackson Street and Pearl Avenue. The food co-op – Northeast Wisconsin’s first – plans to occupy 8,000 square feet of space on the BRIO building’s first floor. Co-op leaders say they selected the site based on its visible location, ample parking and accessibility to drivers, walkers, bikers, bus riders and boaters.
“Our 1,039 member-owners told us the store needs to be visible and easy to get to, provide a wide selection of local, organic and natural foods and create a unique shopping experience,” said Brenda Haines, Oshkosh Food Co-op Board President. “We believe this site does all of that and more. It provides a next-gen shopping experience that will attract people to our community, brings healthy food choices to an underserved part of the community and provides a market for local farmers and producers.”
The co-op plans to source about 20 percent of its goods from growers and producers within the region.
“We expect this store to help strengthen the local food economy by offering farmers and producers a 7-day-a-week market in which to sell their goods,” said Tracy Vinz, Producer Relations Team Co-Chair.
The site is near Main Street, UW Oshkosh and the Oshkosh Riverwalk, in an area classified by the US Department of Agriculture as a food desert. Food desert neighborhoods are low-income areas where traditional grocery stores are more than one mile away. Nearly 50 percent of residents in the area surrounding the food desert live below the Federal Poverty Line.
“The store helps address a major gap in the community, providing healthy food options in a neighborhood where there are too few,” said Samantha Larson, Oshkosh Food Co-op Board Vice-President. “We can do this because the owners of the store – our members – are making this a priority.”
The 4-story BRIO building is a project of Merge Urban Development. The building will include 53 market-rate apartments above the Oshkosh Food Co-op. The BRIO building is one of three planned as part of a $50 million development in the Jackson Street/Pearl Avenue area. The Oshkosh Common Council approved Merge’s General Development Plan earlier this year. Final site plans and construction documents have not yet been submitted for the Council’s final approval. The development team is aiming for a May 2020 ground breaking.