For the last 37 years, Wheatsville Co-Op has not shied away from pioneering efforts. The retail grocery store opened as the first and only grocery co-op in Austin, TX in 1976, they were the first to introduce Austinites to the surprising delicacy popcorn tofu, and this summer, the co-op embarks on another first – expansion. Wheatsville will open its second store at 4001 S. Lamar in July.
The new location is a fit-out at the site formerly occupied by Wells Fargo bank at Lamar Oaks Shopping Center. The $2.7 million project is comprised of 22,000 SF of retail space and 2,500 SF of office space. Amenities will include a deli, a community meeting room with a kitchen, a burrito bar, an in-store Artisan bakery and a 100 percent organic coffee bar. Austin-based Antenora Architects, who worked on the renovation of Wheatsville’s flagship store on Guadalupe Street four years ago, was called on once again to design the second location. A multi-discipline firm, Antenora is associated with a wide range of design work, including interiors, graphic design, hospitality, food service, retail, public work, historic preservation and adaptive re-use projects.
“Wheatsville fits in our sweet spot because [the project] was an adaptive re-use, green and sustainable and food-related.” project architect Michael Antenora said.
With the aim of an Austin Energy Green Builder Silver 2 or Bronze 1 Star ranking, green construction was incorporated as much as possible for the fit-out. The Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) Commercial Green Building Program was the nation’s first commercial green rating system. Plans call for 35 solar tubes, three to four skylights, LED cooler lighting, low-flow toilets and concrete flooring. Additionally, Wheatsville is creating an eco-friendly atmosphere with customer composting and recycling bins, bicycle parking and employee showers for those who bike to work.
Unlike national chain health food stores such as Sprouts or Whole Foods, Wheatsville is operated as a local cooperative. Patrons can pay a fee to become “owners” in the co-op, and open meetings are held where members can vote on issues affecting the cooperative. One of the prime goals of the co-op is to support other local cooperatives. Wheatsville offers local, organic and sustainable food options by offering products from local farmers and businesses such as Maine Root soda, Black Star Co-op and Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery.
After serving the University of Texas area for over 30 years, and with membership over 13,000, Wheatsville members decided the demand was great enough for additional locations. After much consideration and a market study, South Austin turned out to be the best area for expansion.
“We need to be in a place where we build the most success so we can continue to expand,” Brand Manager Raquel Dadomo said. “We felt like [the South Lamar location] would bring the traffic we need, and we could come in strong down there and move forward to future success.”
With the second location, Wheatsville is looking to lay the infrastructure for additional cooperative grocery stores throughout Austin. If all goes well, a third store will be planned for 2015.
“Co-ops are still a novel concept, unfortunately,” Dadomo says. “By getting bigger, supporting the businesses we want to support, and supporting local farmers, we hope we can change that, and expand the co-op economy.”
Journeyman Construction served as general contractor, and all subcontractor bids have been received at this time. Construction is about 30 percent complete, with grand opening plans set for mid-July 2013
Contact Dan Gillotte, General Manger or Raquel Dadomo, Brand Manager with Wheatsville Co-op for further information, (512)478-2667