Thursday, October 25, 2007

North Country Co-op Closes

A Letter from the North Country Board of Directors

After 37 years, North Country Coop to close it's doors on November 4th, 2007.

It is with great sadness that we write to inform you of the decision to close North Country Cooperative Grocery. On October 22, 2007 at the General Membership Meeting (GMM) of North Country Co-op (NCC) the members voted to support the Board’s intent to close the doors of North Country Cooperative Grocery store. The Board explored this option with the Membership last spring, and at that time decided it was premature to make the decision to close. In late June NCC entered into a 6 month agreement with Mississippi Market to provide part-time interim store management, and received assistance from the National Co-op Grocer’s Association in preparing financial projections and in reviewing product mix. Unfortunately NCC has run out of time. Sales have continued to decline and without at least modest increases in sales it is just not tenable to remain open. We will sell out the remaining inventory and plan to close the store no later than November 4th. The building and other assets will be sold. Upon completion of selling of the assets including the building the Board will work with council to meet all our financial and legal obligations. At this point we will have GMM to decide the future on North Country Co-op. We would like to thank you for your support over our long history. It is sad to see NCC close. With its 37 year her/history on the West Bank it was the oldest co-op grocery store in the Twin Cities. The Board is committed to proceeding in such a way as to honor the history of NCC. We hope you will continue to stop in and take advantage of these final days to help us clear out our inventory and say your farewells. If you have any questions the board can be reached at or call Marvin at 612-871-7920. Sincerely, North Country Co-op – Board of Directors Marvin Loxterkamp – Board President; Chris Garty – Vice President; Jay Hambidge – Treasurer; Cathryn Carlis – Secretary; A.K. Vincent; Amina Watson; April Alfuth; Doug Sembla; Rhea Dykoski We want to thank the founding sisters for starting NCC so many years ago. In special memory of Deborah Shroyer’s passing September 9, 2007.


The following is Greg Bastien's [ King of the run-on sentence ] article from Southside Pride ( though not posted online):

Nov. 4. 2007. marked the end of an era in local co-op history; North Country Co-op (the co-op that started the co-op movement in the Twin Cities from the back porch of Diane and Alvin Odermann's West. Bank house with a $100 loan from Debbie Shroyer) closed its doors in the" Cedar Riverside neighborhood. A purveyor of organic. bulk and retail food stuffs for over 37 years, this grocery has been a staple of the near southside community. Financial collapse is the reason given for its closure, with over $72,000 in losses last year and projected losses of over $10,000 per month for this year. Flat sales for the last five years and mounting demands from suppliers to pay COD made continuing the store impossible in the opinion of its board. On Oct. 22 the members of the co-op ratified the decision to close.

How did it come to this?

The Star Tribune article of October 24 indicated the overall health of the grocery co-op community in the Twin Cities was excellent, and North Country certainly had loyal members and name recognition. It had recently changed from worker-owned and managed to a volunteer board and paid employees, but it seems like it just couldn't dig itself out of its hole. Seward Cafe is probably the last remaining holdout from the 1960's revolution on the West Bank. It is still run and owned by a worker collective. Dreams die hard. What was once thought to be the future, no longer fit into today's "bottom-line" "Cost-benefit analysis" fast buck value system.

The historical and cultural influence that created North Country are too complex and profound to make a quick assessment of right or wrong [ KC: I recommend "Storefront Revolution" by Craig Cox on the subject ]. But at some point a structural analysis of what occurs in volunteer organizations where tensiion is created between paid and unpaid workers, between democratic and undemocratic methods of decision-making would be helpful and constructive to any neighborhood or enterprise attempting a more egalitarian operation. Our default mode is always to look for a leader to fill a vacuum. The vacuum is created by people afraid to wield power within an organization because it would cause conflict. We must not be afraid of some conflict when it comes to changing people's minds in difficult situations.

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