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New Beginnings at the Co-op This Spring

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day. I was a senior in college when the first Earth Day was celebrated. We were doing a lot of protesting against the Vietnam War at the time, and Gaylord Nelson was on our side. I remember Earth Day as a sign of hope and his support. As you know, it eventually served to merge many groups into the Environmental Movement we know today.

Even though the date, April 22nd, was chosen to conform to the college calendars so that students would be on campus for teach-ins, it is celebrated as spring comes to Wisconsin (usually). And this spring especially is one of new beginnings for our board and our co-op.

The merger has moved along by leaps and bounds through Crystal’s leadership and the hard work of our dedicated staff. Our owners continue to be supportive, while already enjoying some of the advantages of a larger, more robust, more diverse co-op. The new combined board has reviewed both sets of old board policies and approved a single set going forward. We also considered the two Ends statements and have approved one that represents the mission of the new co-op, while incorporating pre-merger values and goals.

With hardly time to take a breath, the opportunity for a long-awaited expansion of the Eau Claire store presented itself. As our owners know, expansion in the downtown area has been a primary goal for the board. From the point of view of the city, downtown has long needed a full-service grocery store. Projects in the past have failed, but ours will be successful because we will offer a complete grocery selection, a dynamic deli, and sufficient parking to make shopping comfortable. In addition, the explosion of housing units and the presence of commercial entities like RCU and JAMF add to the downtown demographics and potential shoppers, who will also benefit from delicious and healthy deli options for lunch.

But most importantly, an expanded store will benefit our primary customers, our owners. The board is monitoring Crystal’s work with the city and has seen a preliminary site plan and drawings of what the inside of the building might look like. Learning from the past expansion in Menomonie and keeping in mind the need to respond to outside changes, like a pandemic, the design is contemporary and flexible.

Soon the co-op will be offering Class C shares to all owners of Menomonie Market Food Co-op who want to invest in the expansion project. Imagine a much bigger Eau Claire store that offers more local products and supports more local farmers and producers. The possibilities are exciting, and we can’t wait!

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