In Context: Expansion Downtown Decorah and the Oneota Co-op

In Context: Expansion Downtown Decorah and the Oneota Co-op

by: Lyle Luzum, President, Oneota Community Co-op Board of Directors

In the co-op world, the Board of Directors has various responsibilities. Certainly the major one is to safeguard the assets of the member/owners. These assets include their financial interests, but also the purpose of the co-op in the world. Co-ops typically exist to serve a purpose beyond the financial bottom line. Rather, achieving a healthy financial bottom line becomes a “means” to the “ends” because without financial health, the purposes of the co-op will not be achieved. Thus, co-ops have multiple bottom lines.

One of the main tasks of a co-op Board is to constantly look at the larger picture – to place the Co-op’s purposes and processes into context. In the next few issues of the “Scoop,” I would like to draw this larger picture and how Oneota Community Food Co-op fits into it – to place our little piece of the world into context.

It hardly seems possible, but it is more than 2 ½  years ago that the Co-op made the commitment to expand in downtown Decorah and more than 1 ½ years since we opened for business in our new store. Even more amazing is the fact that we have been here for 35 years! As one of only three Food Co-ops in the State of Iowa, what we have is unusual and special for small town Iowa. With almost 2300 member/owners, Oneota Co-op is truly integrated into the fabric of our community.

We were bumping our heads, so to speak, in the old store, finding it more and more challenging to meet the needs of customers for natural, wholesome, whole foods. Our expansion was a leap of faith that the community would respond to our efforts to reach out and welcome even more people as they explored new paths in their food journey.

As we considered where to expand, one thing was clear: we were committed to downtown Decorah. We didn’t ask for special privileges, we didn’t threaten to leave if we didn’t get special breaks. We saw ourselves as an anchor for downtown, and we now strive to become even more a part of the fabric of an unusually successful community. That’s what locally owned and operated businesses do.

We are proud of our store. We are gratified by your response. We welcome you to shop, eat, and, hopefully, join us as we continue to bring unusually good food, good eating, and good living to our community.