Janesville49.2°

Expansion was natural for Basics

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 8, 2008
— The parking lot was jammed, with the exception of the two stalls reserved for electrical vehicles in need of a charge.

That's not unusual on the first Tuesday of the month, the day Basics Cooperative Natural Foods has dubbed "Super Tuesday" for the savings it offers.


But inside Basics there was plenty of room to roam, and that is unusual.


Elbow room was one of the reasons Basics moved from its store on Woodman Road to a much larger location at 1711 Lodge Drive, the former home of Hancock Fabrics.


Basics opened Sept. 25 in the 15,000-square-foot building. It's using 11,000 square feet as selling space, which is considerably more than it filled on Woodman Road.


In addition to the added space, the new site allows Basics to offer more products. The produce section is bigger, as is the area offering gluten-free products. Customers now can get fresh meat, pick up some sushi or shop the deli or salad bar.


An adjoining community room will seat 75 and is available for classes or meetings.


"We did extensive customer surveys to see what people want at Basics," said Lynnette Wirth, the store's general manager. "We're owned by our customers, so we do what they want us to do."


In 2005, David Roang, the son of one of Basics' founders, came up with the idea to turn Basics into a cooperative. The co-op, which now has more than 1,500 members, is buying the business from Roang.


"We've added about 100 members just in the last couple weeks as the excitement about the new store grew," Wirth said.


The expansion will boost the store's employment from 32 to 47.


Part of Roang's thinking was the probability that Basics would some day need a larger store.


That day is now, and green building methods were the order of the day with the store's renovation.


Instead of buying new refrigeration units, the store bought used. Those units are cooled by a centralized compressor, which eliminated the need for several individual compressors. The new compressor generates a lot of heat, which will warm water tanks and shoppers.


The floor is made from recycled materials, and all painted surfaces have minimal volatile organic compounds.


Fifteen solar panels soon will be installed to offset electricity costs.


Wirth said Basics is working toward Green Globe certification, a set of sustainable development principles that came out of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.


"It's important that we're friendly to the environment," Wirth said.


The green philosophy is a natural extension of the co-op's values, she said.


Construction at the new building, which is owned by the Madison-based Sara Investment Real Estate, started in May. Basics used local contractors on the project, which was overseen by Marklein Builders.


"Nobody said it could be done for less than $1 million," Wirth said of the project.


But it was completed for considerably lessó$450,000 borrowed from Sara at a favorable interest rate and tacked on to the store's monthly rent.


STORE HOURS

Basics is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.



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