Staffing Up for Expansion

We’re nearing the finish line! It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we executed our purchase agreement with the city of Eau Claire. In that time, we have transformed City Lot 7 into a new forever home for our cooperative. We are closing in on the store setup phase, and those days will be busy. As construction finishes, we will fill that building with delicious food. Not only will current and yet-to-be-hired staff do a lot of that work, but we will also welcome National Co+op Grocers and staff from several co-ops who want to help so, in some cases, they can learn the process as they are expanding themselves. We are also looking for about twenty co-op owners who are willing to volunteer for at least ten hours in September and into October. You will get first access to the store and help set us up for success on day one.

As dramatic as all the physical changes are, Menomonie Market Food Co-op has also undergone dramatic organizational changes to accommodate two locations and the big leap in sales we are about to take. First off, growing our business means more leadership positions available at the co-op. We are moving from a staff of fifty-five to ninety, and that includes both eight new management positions as well as several new captain and coordinator positions. We are committed to internal growth, and indeed, over the last six months, thirteen of our fifty-two staff have moved into new positions, taking on more responsibility. This is 25%! We have sorted out the ways that our current staff can grow, and we are now ready to look externally to grow our numbers. Spread the word, or apply now, whether you are interested in a management position or part-time floor work.

We are restating our job positions so that each position has a narrower scope; instead of everyone being a generalist, more people can focus on their areas of strength. With two locations and a desire for consistency between them, we have created two departments that support both stores. Operational Services Support will manage our product selection, pricing strategy, promotional calendar, marketing, and IT. Kendall Sukopp has been promoted from her Marketing Manager position to lead this team, and Jordan Wolfe and Jack Blaker, formerly our Merchandising Managers, have grown into the Category Manager and Information Systems Manager roles. All I can say about this group is—THIS IS A DREAM TEAM. The Administrative Services Support team will cover human resources, finance, training, and staff support and is led by Karen Mischel, our newest member of the Development Team who already feels indispensable.

Last, our co-op is finally ready for store managers. This new role will put our strategy into action to ensure that the store is always ready to shop. They will give more support to department managers, who will in turn have more support for their staff. The store manager will also oversee the upkeep and improvements to the facility and serve as a connection between staff and their administrative and operational support teams. Layne Qualy will become our Menomonie Store Manager; her several years of management experience in Menomonie has her ready for the challenge, and she is clear in her desire to maintain focus on growth and improvement in Menomonie while the attention shifts to Eau Claire. In Eau Claire, we have hired an external candidate, Cassandra Cattau. Cassie brings a career in retail to us, including experience with opening new retail locations. Outstanding in Cassie’s interview was her relationship to service, her desire to create high levels of accountability at work, her systems thinking, and her wanting work that is more than just a job.

This growth is only possible because of the simple moment when a person chooses to come shop with us at Menomonie Market Food Co-op for the first time, to visit one of our locations first before continuing on to their other big shopping trip, or to become an owner and stick with us because of the way they are treated by our staff. Both stores started out in their communities to meet the needs of really a very small number of people—I think our first delivery at Just Local Food might have been to about twelve families, and I also remember the first time we hit a $10,000 sales week in Menomonie (now we hit that every day and sometimes double). It’s all of these tiny interactions—staff to a vendor, cashier to a customer, customer to a friend, staff to each other, parent to a child, and, heck, we can even throw in the interaction of a seed to the soil—that have built up into something special.

Every one of you who is reading this article right now contributes to that magic. Thank you for being here!

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 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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