As Whitewater’s newly elected city council member in District 3, Brienne Brown says she’s got groceries on the brain.
Other things, too, but top of mind for Brown is how to solve the city’s relative dearth of fresh groceries, she said Tuesday.
A health education lecturer at UW-Whitewater and board member of the Whitewater Grocery Co., a cooperative, Brown defeated incumbent council member Chris Grady by about 70 votes in Tuesday’s election.
Brown said the city’s recent announcement that it has three unnamed suitors who might want to build a new grocery store by the end of this year provides evidence the local market could use more options.
Whitewater’s Walmart sells some groceries, but the city otherwise has been without a major grocery store for nearly a half-decade, ever since Daniels Sentry Foods closed in December 2015.
“There are a lot of people in institutional living. A large retired population and a large student population. Many don’t drive or don’t have cars,” Brown said. “They’re stuck. They can’t get out of town that often to go grocery shopping.”
She said her cooperative’s surveys show there is a need for a new grocery store, whether it is a supermarket, a fresh and locally- sourced cooperative—or both.
Brown said if the city offers tax incentives to lure a chain supermarket or other, bigger store this year, it could change shift the focus of her cooperative’s plans from low-cost, fresh foods to more locally sourced items.
But she believes there is enough room in Whitewater’s market for more than one new grocery store.
“Our market studies have shown there is enough room for a couple grocery stores, and a cooperative can certainly turn on a dime,” she said. “It would probably be a little more upscale; it would focus a lot more on local, clean and healthy foods.”
This story has been altered from an earlier version to clarify the corporate model used by the Whitewater Grocery Co. The company is organized as a cooperative.