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Brighter Days Are Coming

COVID-19 has taken over the narrative for most of 2020, but underneath that, there are so many great things happening at the co-op. The countdown to better things ahead in 2021 is everywhere we look, so I thought I would use this space to take a look at where we are in our BLT—this acronym stands for more than just a sandwich here—it also means the Big Long Term.

This year we celebrated five years at our current location. Our large development project has a complicated financial structure and was executed during a time of industry-breaking disruption in grocery. Our financial recovery after expansion, the period of time when cash is tight, debt is high, and every sale makes a difference, wasn’t so fun at times! This fifth year marks a big shift toward stability and functionality of our co-op. Throughout the tenuous time, we stayed generous—we increased wages levels, added benefits, created our Double Dollars program, began our Fund Our Foodshed Grant program, and invested in supporting the growth in cooperatives across the United States. We have shown that giving generously can make you stronger.

About two years ago, with our financial recovery happening, our Board Of Directors began to think about what may be next for us. Clearly, we have built our forever home in Menomonie; we won’t need a bigger store here, and with our big lot and shed next door, there is so much potential on this property (Stay tuned for more on that this spring—we have some great ideas on how to transform that space, and no worries, the wonderful Hive and Hollow is staying where it is).

The interest in expanding our generosity and definition of community to stretch throughout the Chippewa Valley has created a new friendship between Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food Co-op. We have worked very well together this year, and I believe that both co-ops are stronger from this sisterhood. Currently, Menomonie Market Food Co-op continues to provide general management and administrative services to Just Local Food Co-op, and we have extended our agreement to do so through 2021. Both Boards have created Collaboration Committees, and they are meeting together monthly. We are currently exploring the legal and financial aspects of consolidation so that we can analyze whether such a move makes the whole stronger. If the numbers pan out, we will next engage more fully with staff at both co-ops to think about what working as one could mean operationally and organizationally. I personally am excited for this phase because the staff is where the rubber meets the road.

If the Boards conclude that a consolidation of some kind is in the best interest of our co-ops, there will be a big engagement of all owners so that a truly informed decision can be made by our ownership because, of course, these are businesses owned BY THE PEOPLE, and as with all aspects of what we do, we can’t do it without you.

2021 will likely bring circumstances where we can again stand near each other, see one another’s faces, and be a group. It is very exciting to imagine some summer and fall picnics where owners of Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food Co-op are meeting up and talking about a shared vision together. We’ll see, things look bright from here!

This article was originally published in the January/February 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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