On March 1, 18 months of planning will come to fruition when Stoughton's Yahara River Cooperative Grocery opens its doors at 229 E. Main St.
The idea for the natural-food cooperative was hatched when Main Street Market, a popular Stoughton grocery, closed. "A number of citizens got together who were upset about the loss of that store," says Eric Borchardt, chair of the cooperative's marketing committee. "The initial discussions were about how to attract another store. But then the discussions turned into, 'Maybe we could do this ourselves.'"
A board was elected in January 2007, and three months later an open house and membership drive were held in the new storefront, formerly the coffee shop Java Junction. "We immediately signed up $20,000 worth of memberships," says Borchardt. "We said, 'We've got something real here.'" The grocery's planners got help from similar stores in the area, including the Willy Street Co-op and the Viroqua Food Cooperative.
The new shop will have roughly 2,900 square feet of retail space. About 80% of the food inventory will be local or organic, and the rest will be conventional. "We want to support our farmers in Dane County and the region," says Borchardt.
Stocking decisions were difficult. ""You can't be all things to all people...we just realized we can't be a mini-Pick 'n Save or a mini-Copps."
The Yahara River Cooperative Grocery will be open to members and nonmembers alike. But members - who pay a $75 lifetime fee - get 5% off. "Like at Willy Street, they're all partial owners," says store manager Mike Markin, a Lodi native who previously worked at the Barneveld cooperative Harvest Market. "They have something invested in it. It's more than a shopping experience. It's a life experience, if you ask me."
Note that while the store opens March 1, its grand opening celebration is set for March 15.
Also coming soon to Stoughton: the latest outpost of Ancora, the Madison-based mini-empire of coffee joints. Husband and wife Jonathan and Megan Marquardt licensed the Ancora name for a Fitchburg cafe at 2690 Research Park Dr., and by early March they hope to open their second Ancora at 2300 U.S. Highway 51 in Stoughton.
"We think there's a real need for coffee down there," says Jonathan. "We're a younger couple, and we've noticed that a lot of young-couple friends have migrated to Stoughton."
The Stoughton Ancora will serve lunch, and appetizers for dinner. The Marquardts hope to host live-music events in the evening. "They don't have a smoking ban in Stoughton, and we plan to be nonsmoking," Jonathan says. "We've been very successful with that in Fitchburg."
There's an Ancora connection at Bradbury's, the new coffee shop and crêperie at 127 N. Hamilton St. Josh Macoutz, who owns the place with wife Jill Macoutz, used to manage the Ancora at 112 King St.
"We were really inspired by some espresso bars we visited in London, so we were shooting for that kind of thing," says Josh. On the menu are crêpes both sweet (e.g., raspberry) and savory (ham and brie).
Macoutz allows that Britain is not known for its cuisine but reports: "There's a bit of a resurgence in London when it comes to food." Indeed, Bradbury's website notes that the cafe is named for friends of the Macoutzes in Portsmouth, England. "We named the shop after them because we wanted to embarrass them," the site notes.
The menu at Bradbury's features locally produced items, says Josh, who has been buying meat, eggs and cheese at the winter Dane County Farmers' Market. "There were apples until about a week ago," he notes. "It's really cool how people are getting excited about local food."
Bradbury's is not the Macoutzes' only new project. About four months ago the couple welcomed Ruby, their new daughter. Says Josh, "If we had it to do over again, we'd probably space it out a bit."
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, local scenesters Kristi Genna and Jack Williams will celebrate the 15th anniversary of their comfortable tavern Genna's, 105 W. Main St., on the Capitol Square. (The venerable bar was earlier at 614 University Ave. for 29 years.) The evening will feature drink specials, free samples from local microbrewery Ale Asylum and a performance by the Neil Diamond tributist Mark Gladue.
The Square has changed in 15 years. "It was a ghost town when we opened," says Williams. "There were a couple of places people would go after work, but it cleared out after 7 o'clock. It used to be scary to walk across the Square at night."