Wheatsville Food Co-op
Number of members: 11,000
Equity investment: $55 + $15 joining fee
Number of staff: 145
Retail square footage: 8,400
Wheatsville Food Co-op has always had big dreams to have multiple locations— going back to the days since it was founded. Now they are in a position to begin to make them come true. The co-op has, as general manager Dan Gillotte put it, “solidified home base” with its latest renovation and is primed to branch out into multiple locations.
This has been an ongoing process of years wherein the co-op board, staff, and owners have been a part of the process to address how to grow on purpose. The message of this growth has been codified as Wheatsville’s BIG Direction, which serves as a powerful communication tool for all stakeholders explaining why the co-op is seeking growth. The BIG stands for “business is good,” and this includes being financially stable, and what the co-op does with its business practices and profit is good. Wheatsville can do positive things within the community by embracing growth. “Our big idea is to accomplish our ends through multiple stores, and this includes more local and organic food, more cooperative economy, and more happy people,” said Gillotte. “It’s our name for our co-op development model.”
Gillotte said that the BIG Direction shows people that growth is one step of many. “It takes some of the angst out of the discussions about a second location. The BIG Direction shows we’re not growing for one thing, but for all the reasons our owners want.” Having a name and visuals to communicate this vision has been getting people excited. “People are very positive about our purpose, and it helps them move in new directions. I’ve even had people apply for jobs at Wheatsville because of it.”
Wheatsville Food Co-op has also been mobilizing other cooperative forces in Austin with the Austin Co-op Think Tank. The group came together a couple of years ago from co-ops around the city to talk about how they can leverage cooperation in the marketplace. It’s been an exciting development to bring area credit unions, a radio station, brew pub and other co-ops together, and Gillotte sees this as another thing adding to their momentum.
“Co-ops are a better solution. If we don’t go forward with boldness, other guys will continue on their path and leave us behind. Our grocery store is an economic driver for the good things we want to see happen. Growth gives us resources to keep more in production,” Gillotte said.