A Milwaukee Co-op is Born
In 1970, a lot was happening in our country and in Milwaukee. The Vietnam war, flower power, riots, hippies, peace, love and understanding. It was also a time of great unrest for what was happening to our farms and our food. Big business was pushing out the family farmer. Harmful agricultural chemicals were destroying the rural landscape and poisoning what we ate. Mom & Pop corner grocery stores were closing to big supermarket chains. “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.
A Different Kind of Business
Outpost currently employs nearly 500 workers, is a UFCW — Local 1473 union shop, and boasts over 20,000 owners. We 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 us numerous awards. It’s also our desire to educate our community about healthy food choices.