Lessons from the Locations

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Meet in the lobby of the InterContinental

In 1970, a lot was happening in our country and in Milwaukee. “Organic” was just a concept, a practice, a way of life for the back to the land folks. Concerned people in the Milwaukee area were looking for a way to purchase foods they considered wholesome and whole. These folks pooled their interest and their money into a cooperative business structure and in April of 1970, started the East Kane Street Food Co-op. Shares in the co-op originally sold for $2.50 a share and the store was “staffed” completely by volunteers.

A year later, after much reorganization, the co-op moved to Clark Street and was renamed Outpost Natural Foods. One of the founders said the name was chosen because, “We felt our effort in carrying pure foods at low cost is a pioneering one in this vast wasteland of depleted and processed foods.” Our new co-op survived and thrived, changing locations numerous times to accommodate it all. Two more locations were added to the lineup to provide service to the many owners joining from the west and from the south, and the administrative functions moved to a centralized location. Through it all, owners continued to put their faith, trust, equity and patronage into Outpost.

Outpost currently employs more than 400 diverse workers, is a UFCW — Local 1473 union shop, and just reached a milestone - 22,000 owners. They also publish an award-winning quarterly food and dining magazine, Graze, that celebrates the food of Wisconsin. Outpost’s business innovation and concern for the community has earned them numerous awards and their sustainability efforts have earned them a place on the EPA’s National Top 30 Retailer list. It’s also their desire to educate our community about healthy food choices and the power of cooperation. 

The "Lessons from the Locations" tour will travel to the two store locations, giving attendees the chance to witness firsthand the solutions Outpost has found to various merchandising, branding and operational challenges. Because the stores vary somewhat in size and layout, there have been lessons learned at each one. Hear from staff how they respond to the challenges of retail grocery, and gain insight into day-to-day issues behind the scenes with our host co-op.