Co-op 101: Ownership

What does it mean? You might have seen the phrase “Co-op owner” on our website, social media, or in the store. This post breaks down how ownership works at the St. Peter Food Co-op.

What is a cooperative?

Co-op is short for cooperative, which means a business owned entirely by members of the community. According to National Co+op Grocers, “Unlike corporate chains, food co-ops are totally independent and owned by the community members who shop there. So instead of focusing on investors, food co-ops focus on their community — nourishing everyone according to their budget and cooking style.”

All co-ops are guided by seven basic principles, created by the International Cooperative Alliance:

  1. Open and voluntary membership (open to all persons, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination)
  2. Democratic member control (one member = one vote)
  3. Member economic participation (members democratically control the capital of the co-operative)
  4. Autonomy and independence (members maintain their co-operative autonomy)
  5. Education, training and information (co-ops inform their members, elected representatives, staff, and the public)
  6. Cooperation among co-operatives (co-ops collaborate—locally, nationally, regionally & internationally)
  7. Concern for the community (co-ops work for the sustainable development of their communities)

What is a Co-op owner?

Anyone can shop at the St. Peter Food Co-op, but once you become an owner, you literally own part of the business. Owners get financial rewards and other perks, as well as a vote to choose the board of directors and impact the co-op’s future direction.

How many owners does the St. Peter Food Co-op currently have?

When you become an owner, you join a community of over 2,600 people helping to meet common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a community-owned and democratically governed business.

What are the benefits of ownership?

  • Owner discounts and sales (look for the orange-topped “Owner Special” signs throughout the store).

  • Quarterly Owner Appreciation Days where Co-op owners receive a one time discount. Owners get to choose their discount & the day they shop (excluding dairy and sale items). Spend $100, get 10% off; Spend $100-$150, get 15% off; Spend over $150, get 20% off. This can really add up when you’re doing seasonal pantry stocking!

  • 10% discount on special orders.

  • Patronage refunds, when available and if declared by the Board of Directors. This is how Co-ops send profits back to their owners.

  • A vote! You are eligible to participate in Co-op governance by electing or serving on the Board of Directors and voting on all major issues.

  • Check cashing privileges for up to $25.00 over the amount of purchase.
  • Discounts at other participating Twin Cities food co-ops, including Eastside Food Co-op, Lakewinds Natural Foods, Linden Hills Co-op, Mississippi Market,  Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli, Valley Natural Foods, Wedge Community Co-op,  plus River Market Community Co-op in Stillwater, MN, City Center Market in Cambridge, MN, and Just Food Co-op in Northfield, MN.

  • A yearly coupon book from the National Co-op Grocers.

How much does it cost?

A Co-op owner has paid a one-time stock purchase fee of $200 in order to become part owner of the St. Peter Food Co-op. There are two ways to pay:

  • Payment plan: Pay $55 down, then six quarterly payments of $25/each.
  • All at once: $200

Can students become owners?

Students can become Co-op owners for a discounted rate of $25/year. Student owners must hold a valid college ID and must show their ownership card and picture ID at each transaction. Student ownerships cannot be shared. Read more about student ownership benefits here.

How do I start the process?

To become a Co-op owner, speak with any cashier or team member or visit our customer service counter!

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