When Rose Atkinson moved to Stoughton from Edgerton in May 2019, she wanted easy access to local, organic foods and this community had a grocery store where she could shop.
Unfortunately for Atkinson, the Yahara River Grocery Cooperative closed shortly after her move.
With YRGC disappearing from East Main Street, Atkins said she felt there was, once again, a void in her community for a grocery co-op. Now, she is trying to fill that void by petitioning to bring a well-established co-op to the area.
Atkinson started a petition in August to bring Willy Street Co-Op, a Madison-based grocery store, to Stoughton. More than 300 people have signed the petition.
Willy Street Co-Op general manager Anya Firszt said that currently, WSC is not in a position to open a store in Stoughton. WSC provided resources and guidance to YRGC when it opened in 2008, and that is something they could do again.
“It was so exciting when (YRGC) opened and so sad when it closed,” Firszt said.
Firszt said some of the problems YRGC had were based on location, including lack of parking and having to store groceries on the basement level.
Atkinson acknowledges that she’s asking a lot for wanting a grocery store to share her values of paying a living wage to its employees and sell products that are both organic and locally sourced goods, but grocery co-ops often share those values, she said.
Atkinson said even if WSC isn’t able to open a Stoughton location, the petition was a way to gauge the community’s interest in a local co-op. Atkinson said the petition is the “very beginning stage” of a co-op solution. While multiple steps would be involved in opening a new co-op grocery store, she said, she feels that there’s an “appetite” for a co-op after talking with other residents.
“I am starting a conversation and trying to connect community members who have shared values and willingness to support something like this in the community,” Atkinson said.