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Merger Passes at Both Co-ops

WE SAID YES!!!!!

The news is in, and it is good news for cooperation in the Chippewa Valley. The owners at Menomonie Market Food Co-op, along with those at our sister co-op Just Local Food Co-op, have both voted in favor of merging into one co-op to better serve customers, owners, vendors, and staff. Both elections concluded on September 12th, and both co-ops easily met the required number of voters and approved the merger plan by a large majority.

We’re breathing a big sigh over here—It feels like the last two years working with Just Local Food Co-op has all the makings of a great romantic comedy. Fate brings us together, we’re having a great time, all sorts of crazy things happen that make things tricky, we wonder if it’s right, there’s a point that we realize we have put all of ourselves into something and whether it can last seems out of our hands… But I think this past week we got to our happy ending. Or I guess it’s just the beginning as we know from the movies!

There is a lot of work ahead. The merger transaction itself will be wrapped up as the boards finish due diligence work and the legal papers are filed. Internally, we need to merge our personnel policies, pay and benefits, IT systems, and financial books. Some of this work has already been done over our time together. It is fun work to take the best from each to make the better whole.

The biggest task ahead is to upgrade the point of sale system in Eau Claire to match the one in Menomonie. This will allow us to move to the same pricing at both stores (resulting in lower prices in Eau Claire), for all owners to be able to shop and receive benefits at both of their stores, and even for people to place online orders to be delivered to their closer location. We estimate this project can be completed by the end of the year, and we can open as a unified co-op under one name sometime around Jan 1, 2022.

THANK YOU. My confidence in the cooperative business model is brimming after experiencing this work. Two separate ownerships elected representatives that took that work so seriously—our boards deliberated in very deep ways on the topic of merger. Neither co-op has EVER experienced voter turnout as high as for this decision—you showed up to decide and vote on a decision that is usually not given to the end-user in our economy. Bravo!

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.

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