Woodstock’s Food Shed Co-op set to begin construction this summer

Local co-op set for site at Route 14, Lakeshore Drive will be first co-op grocery in McHenry County

An architect's rendering for the Food Shed Co-op, set to begin construction in Summer 2023 at Route 14 and Lake Shore Drive, Woodstock.

After nearly a decade of building its owner base and prepping for a food co-op in McHenry County, the Woodstock-based Food Shed Co-op plans to begin building its store this summer.

The McHenry County Food Cooperative recently signed a deal with Gallant Building Solutions to construct a 9,100-square-foot grocery store with 7,000 square feet of retail space at 10806 U.S. Highway 14.

When the building and store opens to the public, it will not be just a grocery store, General Manager Peter Waldmann said. “It is a placed to gather, shop, and nourish our community members. We are committed to teaching our community about the food we eat,” he said.

Planning for the co-op began in 2014 with the sale of ownership shares. The land was purchased about two years ago, Community Outreach Director Susan Jensen said.

“We got it at a very good price and it gives us the ability to build in the board’s vision, from the ground up.”

—  Food Shed Co-op General Manager Peter Waldmann

The Woodstock City Council annexed the land into city limits in April 2021, zoned as B3 Service and Retail District. Grocery is an allowed use in that zone, according to previous news stories.

Plans for the building and site include some solar power, electric vehicle charging stations, planted bio swales, a connection to the adjacent bike path, and a commitment to reducing single use plastic in the store and by customers, Waldmann said.

When the store is opened, 25% of its products will be locally sourced from local producers. Signage will indicate the miles between the store and the product’s origin site, Jensen said.

Co-ops are different from chain grocery stores because they are community owned by local residents. “We keep the money circulating in McHenry County,” Waldmann said of the differences.

The co-op now has 1,703 owners – investors who bought at least two shares at $100 each. Anyone can shop there – not just those who paid for shares, Waldmann said.

Once open, the focus will be on both local produce and ensuring as little food waste as possible.

If produce is damaged, it may end up in the cut produce section, smoothies, soups and other specialities made on-site.

“It is hard for a small manufacturer-farmer to get their products in the door” of the large national grocery chains, Waldmann said. At the co-op “they can scale their businesses to allow us to sell their food.”

Getting to the current site has been a challenge, with a few locations considered over the years, Jensen said.

The Route 14 site had been donated to the Mayo Clinic at one point. A board member aware of the land contacted the health care provider and was able to work out a deal to purchase the land at a reduced rate.

“It checks a lot of boxes for us,” Waldmann said of the location. “We got it at a very good price and it gives us the ability to build in the board’s vision, from the ground up.”

The location also has street visibility for motorists on Route 14 and is centered between Crystal Lake, Woodstock, and other surrounding communities. It is also near Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital and McHenry County Community College.

They hope to break ground in late June or early July, with a 26-week construction window.

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