Menomonie Market’s History of Supporting Local
A benefit of being a community-owned food cooperative is that our staff has the opportunity to build close personal relationships with many of our local suppliers. And though much of our focus in the coming years will be on doing so even more than we already do, supporting local suppliers has been at the heart of our organization since it was founded almost half a century ago.
Menomonie Market Food Co-op got its start in 1973 as a food buying club before officially incorporating in 1974 during the “second wave” of U.S. cooperatives. Its founding members had one goal in mind: to create access to good, local food in the Menomonie community. As the club quickly grew, its members recognized a need for a physical space to sell food, so they opened their first location in the choir loft at the former Methodist Church on the corner of 7th and Wilson. In those early days, sourcing from local suppliers was one of the only avenues for acquiring products to sell; staff and members would even make weekly “runs” for merchandise, including local honey, apples, and Eau Galle cheese.
From the late 1970s through the early 2000s, the co-op continued to grow and relocated several times, including to the legendary Silver Store (or “Bucket Store” as it was known then) in 1979, Stout Street in 1988, the “Block Building” in 1994, and our last location on Second Street in 2001. It was there that Crystal Halvorson became General Manager in 2004 and led the co-op through its most substantial period of growth at the old store. And during that time, staff continued to strengthen the co-op’s relationships with its local suppliers. Some fond memories from those days were when Menomonie Market became Crystal Ball Farms’ first customer in 1995; Troy DeRosier, the owner, would hand deliver milk to the store and would always buy a candy bar for breakfast. Pete Edstrom was one of our early veggie farmers; he was famous for his little tykes cucumbers, strawberries, and the smell of cigarettes. And back then, we would also take eggs from anyone at the back door; lots of folks would bring in a dozen or two at a time, including kids with 4H projects.
Sourcing as many products as we can from local suppliers, big and small, is what our co-op has done from the beginning, and we’ve only been able to increase that support since expanding to our current location on Main Street East in 2015. In our last fiscal year, 36% of our sales, equal to $1.6M, were from local products, and now that we know we are merging with Just Local Food Co-op, our staff is excited to watch that number climb in the coming years as we spread our reach further into the Chippewa Valley.
This article was originally published in the September/October 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.