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Members of the Hudson Grocery Cooperative and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau posed for a ribbon-cutting photo when the co-op joined the chamber recently. Cutting the ribbon, front from left, are, Howard and Tia Salter and Sinead O'Meara. Second row, from left: chamber ambassador Barb Zimmerman, co-op treasurer Sarah Atkins, co-op president Suzanne Hambleton, co-op members Megan Laney and Nancy Nichols, and chamber ambassador Angela Olson. Third row: chamber ambassadors Susie Halvers...

Hudson Grocery Cooperative is seeking members

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business River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The effort to start a grocery cooperative in Hudson is gaining momentum.

The Hudson Grocery Cooperative now has a board of directors and 60 members.

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It is one-fifth of the way toward the mark of 300 owner-members at which a consultant would be hired to do a feasibility study of available store sites in downtown Hudson.

At 600 owner-members, the co-op plans to sign a lease and finalize its financing.

"If we get 300 members in two months, then we'll be doing this in the spring. But if it takes us a year, we won't be looking towards moving forward until later next year," said Suzanne Hambleton, president of the co-op's six-member board of directors.

The idea for a downtown cooperative grocery store started more than a year ago with a group of parents whose children attend Willow River Elementary School.

They missed the convenience of having a downtown grocery after Econofoods left the River City Center, and thought of replacing it with cooperative store that would carry locally grown and organic products, along with other groceries.

The group issued a public interest survey in the fall of 2011.

"In two weeks, we had about 200 people take the survey and say yes, they wanted to see a grocery store come back to downtown Hudson," Hambleton said. "Each of those people signed up for a mailing list, so we have been e-mailing almost monthly, keeping them up to date on the progress."

In early 2012, students in an Experiential Learning course at UW-River Falls assisted the effort by writing two sample business plans for the cooperative.

The co-op filed its articles of incorporation and ratified bylaws last May.

The organizers then began offering shares of stock in the cooperative, with an individual membership is priced at $60, and a household membership, at $80.

The board of directors was elected at the first annual member-owners meeting.

Hudson Middle School teacher Cindy Landers is the vice president. Bess Hambleton, an attorney, is the secretary. Sarah Atkins, owner of Hudson-based Archovations Inc., is the treasurer.

The other directors are Steve Fox, owner of the local website design firm Wiscota Systems, and Bridget O'Meara, an educator and long-time advocate for sustainable agriculture practices.

President Suzanne Hambleton is a stay-at-home mom with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

Over the summer, the board started a website, www.hudsongrocerycoop.org, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Board members also held public information meetings and talked to various groups about their plans.

"Whenever someone invites us to come in and share our story we take them up on the offer. It's a very grassroots, kind of viral, organization right now," Hambleton said.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the co-op will have an information table and representatives at The Purple Tree, 516 Second St., to answer questions and spread the word about the planned grocery.

Co-op representatives will also be at the Hudson Area Library from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 15. The board will give a presentation on its plans at 11 a.m.

The goal

The goal is still to open a full-service, medium-sized grocery store in downtown Hudson, according to Hambleton.

"The cool thing about having owners come on board before the store opens is we'll be able to survey our owners on their wants and needs," she said.

"Right now, the board wants to have a full-service grocery store. So you will be able to go in there and get your peanut butter as well as your locally grown eggs. We do want to feature locally grown products as much as possible in our store."

Hambleton acknowledged interest in moving into a portion of the old Econofoods space in the River City Center on Second Street. Whether that is a possibility will depend on how quickly the co-op can sign up member-owners, and on lease negotiations with the owners of the shopping center.

"We do definitely want to be downtown, preferably on the Hwy. 35 corridor," Hambleton said. "There are plenty of wonderful options up on the hill for people to go grocery shopping there."

She's optimistic about the store becoming a reality.

"There is tons of interest and tons of enthusiasm," she said. "Every time we meet new people and introduce the idea they display just an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm. People have really gotten behind the idea of owning their own grocery store."

To join

People can join the co-op by going to its website, www.hudsongrocerycoop.org, and filling out an application form. The payment can be made on the website with a credit card through Paypal, or by mailing a check to Hudson Grocery Cooperative, P.O. Box 92, Hudson, WI 54016.

The website also contains information about cooperatives in general and the planned Hudson Grocery Cooperative.

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