Co-ops build community. This is integrally woven into what we do and how we run our business.
First and foremost a co-op exists because people in a community come together to meet a common need. Mississippi Market exists to provide access to quality goods and services—a common need in our community. Access to good food is a cornerstone of building personal health and there is a growing recognition that while access is critical, it is not sufficient. That’s why education is an important part of what we do: we not only sell good food, we help people learn how to use it with recipes, classes, articles in our newsletter and by presenting to outside groups like Early Family & Childhood Education (ECFE). We reach out to our future cooks with classroom programs provided by the Midwest Food Connection, a non-profit founded by 5 area food co-ops, that sends teachers into the schools, for free, to teach kids about food and sustainable eating.
While selling great food and teaching people how to use it is at the heart of what we do, it isn’t all we do. At Mississippi Market we work to make our communities better through partnering with the St. Paul Library, Community Design Center, and area food shelves. We help make our neighborhoods fun with our sponsorships of events like Wishes for the Sky, Selby Jazz Fest and the West 7th Garden Tour. And our own gardens make our neighborhoods more beautiful, giving you a nice place to hang out and enjoy a meal from the deli and a chat with your friends.
Strong retail partnerships can help build strong communities. For our co-op to thrive our community needs to thrive; and as we thrive, we help our communities thrive.
And to thrive, we need to grow. Growing means we can have a bigger impact. Growing means we can create more jobs. Growing means we can circulate more money back into our community. Since we opened at West 7th in July of 2009 we have seen our membership grow 34.3%, our staff numbers grow 15.2% and our sales grow 33.4%. Both stores are thriving, and we believe we have made a positive impact on the neighborhoods in which our stores are located.
What does growth look like for us in the coming years? We can’t answer that. We do know that we will remain aware of growth opportunities including growing our core food business as well as being open to other community enriching endeavors. As we ponder our future we ask our member-owners to engage in the conversation – have ‘Coffee with the Board’ on a second Saturday of the month, attend a board meeting, vote for the board of directors or consider serving on our board.
(Gail Graham’s general manager report, August-September 2012)