Local co-op sets “lofty” goal

Natural Alternative Food Co-op opened its store in Luck in 1991 and has been expanding its offerings ever since. - Photos submitted

LUCK – You might say things are looking up at the Natural Alternative Food Co-op. Looking up, that is, to a huge unused space on the historic building’s second floor that will soon be opened as the Co-op Loft.

Work is now under way to convert what were once living quarters into rentable office space, and the co-op is kicking off a campaign to raise $10,000 for the project.  Co-op owners have already donated $15,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours to the renovation.

Natural Alternative Food Co-op has been an important part of Luck’s Main Street for the last 26 years of its 43-year history.  Through the decades it has grown, improved and expanded its offerings to the community.

Built in 1932, the Natural Alternative building has been home to hardware, supply, dry goods and grocery stores.  According to Luck’s Diamond Jubilee history book, celebrating the village’s 75th anniversary in 1980, the upstairs living quarters were added in 1946 by Richard Hallquist, who had an Our Own Hardware dealership in the building.

Natural Alternative moved into the storefront location in 1991 and purchased the building in 2004.

“We’ve invested more than $100,000 in the store and building since buying it,” said Lisa Doerr, co-op board president.  “However, the 2,400-square-foot upstairs has been unused for nearly a decade.”

All that is now changing, spurred by an inquiry last winter from local artist Chrissy Mount Kapp about renting upstairs space for use as a studio.  

“We realized that renting additional office space had the potential to not only improve the co-op’s bottom line,” said Doerr, “but also to bring more people to downtown Luck.”

A number of renovations have already been undertaken this year, including demolition work, painting, and carpentry work on walls and windows.  Professionals were hired to install a new heating and cooling system and to rewire the electric.

Kapp has become the first occupant of the new space, with The Vintage Painter studio located there since February.  The upstairs will also have at least three offices, a large reception area, copy room, meeting room and rest room.

“We’ll be meeting a need for moderately priced office space with the best available Wi-Fi, plus use of a meeting room,” said Stephanie Lundeen, longtime co-op board member.

One of the more innovative features of the Co-op Loft is a 400-square-foot room, originally the living room, dedicated for the shared use of up to eight “co-workers.”  Instead of having a private office, people who are self-employed, working for different employers or in a variety of other situations can use the space on a flexible schedule.  

Volunteer Ron Erickson said he has had inquiries from lake-home owners who need a place to still get some work done while enjoying time with friends and family.

“Our co-op owners have already contributed $15,000 for the renovation,” Doerr said, “but we need another $10,000 to see this project through.

“We’re hoping for support from folks in the broader community who understand that the Co-op Loft will be good for Luck and provide a needed service to the entire area,” she said.

As fundraising efforts continue, so does the work continue.  This week, said volunteer Ron Erickson, contractor Adrian Tuynman and his crew will be working on carpentry projects in preparation for more painting.  Original oak flooring will be refinished and remaining areas will be completed for use.

If all goes according to schedule, the Co-op Loft will be ready for use by early December. Rental inquiries should be emailed to nacoop@lakeland.ws.

Support in any amount is welcome, and donations can be made through a Go Fund Me page now active at gofundme.com/natural-alternative-coop-loft.  – Mary Stirrat with information from Natural Alternative Food Co-op.