VIROQUA - The staff and board of the Viroqua Food Cooperative, along with financial and community partners, kicked off the celebration of their expansion project on Thursday, Nov. 8, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Speakers at the ceremony included Board President Mike Link; General Manager Jan Rasikas; Viroqua Mayor Karen Mischel; a representative of the National Cooperative Grocers Association; Scott Wall, President of the Bank of Cashton; Dustin Kirking of USDA Rural Development; a representative of Bremer Bank; and a representative of the Wisconsin Economic Development Council.
“As board president, I want to thank all of our financial partners, and USDA Rural Development, and WEDC,” Link said. “I also want to thank the staff who showed up for work under ever-changing work conditions throughout the expansion project.”
General Manager Jan Rasikas seemed to echo her board president’s sentiments.
“I want to thank the shoppers, the staff, and our board of directors for their continuing support throughout the expansion process, Rasikas said. “And I want to thank our construction partner, Wieser Brothers, and our financial partners without whom this expansion would not have been possible.”
Viroqua Mayor Karen Mischel seemed happy to have the vibrant, thriving business in her city. The city, under the previous mayor, granted the Co-op a variance on Center Street which allowed them to remain in their current location.
“The Viroqua Food Cooperative is an asset to the City of Viroqua, and their 4,000 members is equal in number to the population of the city, which is amaizng,” Mischel said. “I am proud to have been a part of a process with such an exciting future – this has been a long time coming.”
Dustin Kirking of USDA Rural Development seemed very inspired by the success of the expansion project.
“I hope that other communities will use the Viroqua Food Cooperative as an example of what can be accomplished when a community comes together with a shared vision.”
The Viroqua Food Cooperative (VFC) first opened its doors in 1995, and completed a 4,400-square-foot building at its current location on Main Street. Now, 23 years after first opening their doors, the Co-op has completed a major expansion, doubling their retail space to over 9,200-square-feet.
Use for the expanded space includes a produce section doubled in size, an expanded deli and coffee bar, with an enormous, beautiful salad bar filled with mouthwatering salad makings. Future additions will be an expanded line of signature sandwiches and a burrito bar.
The building project also includes an outdoor seating area, new bike racks and a bike repair station, expanded parking, and a 132-panel solar array on the south-facing roof. An electric car-charging station will be added to the parking lot in the near future. The solar power system was installed by Ethos Green Power of Viroqua.
According to Ethos Green Power owner, Alicia Leinberger, the 132/360-watts-panel array is a 47.5 kilowatt system. It is estimated to produce 64,544 kilowatts of energy per year. Time will tell, but the system is estimated to produce 15-20 percent of the Co-op’s total electric usage, save about $4,500 per year, and make electricity for more than 30 years. Ethos Green Power and the Co-op submitted and were awarded a grant from Focus on Energy for $25,060 to help finance the project.
The member owners of the Viroqua Food Cooperative invested over $1 million in the expansion project. Other financing came from the Bank of Cashton, Bremer Bank, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Scott Wall, President of the Bank of Cashton wished the newly expanded business well.
“The membership of the Co-op had fabulous energy and vision,” Wall said. “Now their Co-op is bigger and better than ever, and I am very proud for our bank to have been a part of it.”
The Bremer Bank was part of the final tax credit part of the financing, and the WEDC contributed $200,000 to the project as well.