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Your local co-op blossoms into the 21st century

General Manager Evan Sayre (left) and Marketing Manager Kaitrin Halvorson stand outside the newly-rebranded Whole Earth Market Co-op. The new sign reads "WE Market Co-op." and was part of an attempt to modernize the co-op while retaining it's original values.

Whole Earth Grocery Co-Op has been in River Falls since 1974. About a year ago, General Manager Evan Sayre and Marketing Manager Kaitrin Halvorson decided it was time to give the co-op a facelift.

The plan was to modernize the look of the downtown grocery store while still maintaining the co-op’s original values.

Halvorson and Sayre said the just-completed renovation is more welcoming to everybody.

“When you walk into the co-op, it doesn’t look like the co-op of our parents,” Halvorson said. “It looks like an updated, trendy co-op that you would find elsewhere...It’s a now a co-op that we can be proud of.”

Along with the new look, the co-op has gotten a new name. It’s now Whole Earth Market Co-op.

The new name is incorporated into the new sign outside the co-op bulding, one of the first parts of the new look people will see. It featured the new logo, which Halvorson designed.

She said her idea with the design was to show the owners, potential owners, and potential customers that the co-op's founding values would be incorporated in the store’s new design. The new logo includes the words “WE Market Co-op.”

“The WE is meant to represent not only Whole Earth, but also a community,” Sayre said.

Inside, the co-op has new flooring, a new cooler for deli items, new signs, and existing parts of the store have been rearranged. The cash registers, for example, have been moved to one side of the store.

The most dramatic change has been the floor, Halvorson and Sayre said. The floor that was removed had been in place since 1992, when the co-op moved to its current location at 126 S. Main St.

Halvorson and Sayre said the updated look has taken about a year to finish and it’s definitely been paying off.

“We’ve been increasing our ownership over the past year,” Halvorson said.

“It’s up over the normal rate of adding owners, it’s definitely an increase,” Sayre said.

Both said they've been filled with excitement and pride seeing the results of all the hard work they’ve put in over the past year.

Whole Earth Market Co-op is a Cooperative (co-op). That means it’s owned by its members.

Whole Earth is the only such grocery store in River Falls.

“We also wanted our owners to take pride in what they see in (the co-op) too,” Sayre said. “When we have.. Positive comments, we know that they’re taking pride in what they own as well.”

The co-op is run by a board of directors, which is kept in the know about everything, as well as the owners through the minutes presented to the owners after each board meeting.

The rebranding was revealed to the owners at the co-op’s annual meeting in March. Halvorson said it was fun to see the excitement.

Sayre said the rebrand was a gamble. Halvorson said they saw the co-op had potential to be more to current and potential future owners and customers. So, Halvorson and Sayre took the gamble. Sayre said it’s definitely paid off.

Before the rebrand, shoppers at the co-op were about 80% owners, 20% non-owners. Now the mix is 70% owners, 30% non-owners.

Sayre said that’s a good thing.

“That means people are feeling more welcome in the co-op than before,” he said. “And that’s what we want.”

The co-op will welcome all comers to a customer appreciation day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept 10. Non-owners will receive a 5% discount, and owners will receive a 10% discount.

Some of the store’s vendors will provide demonstrations and samples. For example, an essential oil vendor will be sharing recipes and doing demonstrations.

Visitors will be able to win prizes such as gift baskets throughout the day.

To learn more about the co-op, visit  

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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