An Update on Merger Progress

​Whether you have been reading The Morsel for decades, or this is the first time, hello! In October we officially became one co-op of 4,500 owners. As a witness to the strategic vision and deep thinking of the board, as well as the detailed project management and chaos control of the staff, I can say that the last two years of work have culminated into something pretty amazing. Congratulations to all!

We’re excited to bring you some benefits of the merger right away! By mid-November, our data systems will be merged, so owners will be able to shop at both stores, prices will drop in Eau Claire, and by the end of the year, all owners will have access to the co-op’s eCommerce site, which will give Eau Claire shoppers instant access to more products from the larger Menomonie location. These big changes are possible right away because of the superstars that are working behind the scenes—an amazing team effort I marvel at every day.

If you haven’t shopped at both of your locations, I invite you to give the new one a visit. Each store uniquely serves its neighborhood, and you will find something new and delicious there. Speaking of giving a new store a try… Another large grocery chain ​has arrived in the Chippewa Valley, where the “grocery wars’’ are playing out. The consolidation of the grocery industry has been heating up in the last decade, and chains are competing on a national map for market share. Their decision to enter a community is less about community need and more about strategy. Ultimately, this war creates large empty buildings in our cities that are hard to fill. W​hat’s exciting to me is how strong you all have shown up over these last four weeks. Sales at both stores are stronger than ever, and we can feel the excitement you bring when you support your co-op.

​Thank you for supporting a crucial difference in our cooperative structure. Our purpose is not to eliminate competitors or extract wealth; instead, our purpose is to run great stores that serve you, strengthen local food systems, create great jobs right here, and support our communities. It is challenging work to be part of an alternative, but it is so rewarding to see more and more families joining this work as owners and shoppers.

Cooperation has been around in the Chippewa Valley since the early 1970s with Sunyata Whole Food Co-op, Just Local Food Co-op (JLF), and Menomonie Market (MMFC), and it will be here for generations to come. The recent decision by owners of MMFC and JLF to merge into one co-op will help ensure that we survive these unprecedented attempts at monopoly in grocery. Consolidation in every aspect of our fragile food system is not our answer; we will do it differently, with quality and service in mind.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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