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Root River Market Cooperative provides for Houston

By Angie Rodenburg

Fri, Jan 24th, 2014
Posted in All Progress Edition

The common phrase “many hands make light work” certainly rings true for Root River Market, Houston’s local grocery store cooperative. In 1998, the privately owned Red’s IGA closed its doors leaving Houston residents without a grocery store for two years. It was during this time that a group of people decided to organize a committee and raise funds to open a grocery store. This cooperative jointly owned and operated by its members gave residents back the convenience of a local grocery store and gave them a stake in the business. Root River Market opened its doors in 2000 and has been serving the community ever since.

Offering a full line of grocery items, fresh produce, and fresh meat, Root River Market has been meeting the needs of their customers and have even expanded their offerings by opening an instore bakery in May, 2012.

Marsha Benson of Houston said, “It’s a neat, clean store with a friendly staff. They have a wide variety of products. I purchase almost all my meat at Root River Market as I know it’s fresh and processed correctly. I know it’s hard for a small town grocery store to survive nowadays, but I know this one does. I am an official member of the store as I want it to thrive.”

“Members of the cooperative are from all over the area,” said Root River Market’s General Manager Richard Carr. “Currently we have 550 member owners. There is no requirement for our customers to become members, anyone can shop here. Membership has its benefits, such as discounts, voting rights, and serving on the Board of Directors.” A share of ownership stock is a one time fee of $100.

Not only has the opening of the Root River Market gotten the community involved as members, but it has also created jobs. Root River Market currently employs 22 people. It also makes it possible to shop locally versus shopping in Winona, Minn. or La Crosse, Wis., keeping more dollars in the community. General Manager Carr added, “Root River Market supports our community and our schools and provides employment opportunities.”

Root River Market has also shared their business model with other small towns that have a difficult time keeping a privately owned grocery store open. They have already had talks with Lanesboro and Mabel. Carr said that Mabel is currently setting up their cooperative and that land was recently acquired for the store building.

The success of the Root River Market is a great example of what can happen when a community decides to pull together and invest in the success of their own town.

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