The farm income crisis and the recent BSE crisis were taking their toll on the small town of Roseisle.
The grocery store in town was set to close, not an unlikely story for a town with a population of 75. With the loss of the store and post office it probably wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if this town simply disappeared from the map. But the community was not ready to let its town go that easily. They were determined to keep their town vibrant and they were going to keep a grocery store in town.
If Life Gives You Lemons…
The small Manitoban town of Roseisle was really feeling the effects of the farm crisis in rural Manitoba. Garth Campbell, owned the general store in town, was losing money, his business was no longer viable. So in July 2004 he announced to the town that he would be closing his doors.
At first the town was in shock but it didn’t take long for them to realise that they needed to do something and they had to do it fast. The town looked at renovating the 103 year old grocery store but knew it would be too costly. Talk turned about the idea of a cooperative store. Community members knew that the cooperative system had worked for friends in the town of Clearwater when they were faced with a similar situation a few years earlier. So the community of Roseisle set to work, and Garth agreed to keep his store open until the new one could be built.
A steering committee was formed, and elections held to appoint a board of directors to oversee the construction and operation of the new store. Today the board is made up of 6 community members who meet at least once a month. Garth Campbell, was involved with the board until he was hired as manager of the new store. Garth had valuable experience and knowledge in running a grocery business.
When the store was opened a manager, assistant manager and two park-time staff were hired for the day to day operations. The Cooperative also houses the post office, something that would have been lost if the community had been unable to maintain a store in town.
Garth had confidence in this system, he knew that people would have a vested interest in seeing the store do well. As part owners of the business, and with the possibility of dividends customers were tied into the store’s success.
The town found advice and support from the Government of Manitoba’s Cooperative Development Services. A representative from the agency spent time in Roseisle working with the group. The Government official provided the town with information for setting up the co-op, and coached them through the process from start to finish.
With a strong sense of determination the community had the building open in four months. The land was levelled October 30th 2004, construction started in the middle of November and Roseisle Community Grocery Co-op was open on March 14 2005.
There wasn’t ever any doubt in the project, there was a little frustration and a great deal of experimentation but the community never stopped. After the first year of operation it is already clear that the store is making money.
“We don’t ask can we do this thing, we say okay we are going to do this and how fast can we do it and we just do it”
—Garth Campbell, Manager of Roseisle Cooperative
Becoming a Member
Memberships are 500 dollars a piece and shares sold fast. Currently there are 117 members, and the number continues to grow. An increase in the share price has the benefit of to nudging people who have not already to buy. But the decision to increase the shares to $750 was rejected because it was known that individuals within the community intending on purchasing a share once they have recovered from the BSE crisis.
A New Look
There are many differences between the Cooperative and the old Campbell’s store. The new store proved to be a learning process for all. The Cooperative has a computer for record keeping and a new till system that records what each member buy so members receives dividends on what their purchases.
The products offered at the store in town have also changed. Clothing and hardware are no longer available, as it has become far too difficult to compete with the large chain stores in cities. Rather Roseisle Co-op focuses on what customers need on a daily basis, including a more diverse grocery selection and basic farming equipment.
“You have to know your community; you have to know what you need to cater to.”
Garth believes that the more diversity you can offer the greater potential you have to draw people in and the better the business will do. The Co-op offers video rentals, environmental friendly cleaning products, fair trade coffee, local meat, and locally grown and processed organic foods.
“A lot of people come in here and they are surprised to see that we have these things here, but this is Roseisle we are always different.”
Another one of the stores drawing cards is the deli, which offers fresh soup and sandwiches. A small sitting area gives people a place to grab a bite to eat or a fresh cup of coffee and a place to catch up with neighbours and friends. The deli takes up a lot of space but has proven to be very beneficial to the store.
The Grocery store has become a member of the buying group Triple 4 Advertising which arranges advertising, sales and promotions through Prat’s Wholesale in Winnipeg.
The new building is very energy efficient, the store’s refrigeration is used to do a lot of the heating so that the furnace does not have to be turned on often. In the summer exhaust fan blow the heat from the coolers’ motors outside, so less air conditioning is needed. All the lighting is energy efficient. These factors help keep electricity costs low.
The municipality has been very supportive of the project, the land was sold to the community for one dollar and the municipality installed water to the building. The municipality is also helping with taxes wherever possible.
The community pulled on the knowledge and experience that was available to them locally. Designs for the store were done by a local architect free of charge. Community volunteers fundraised and built the entire store, save for the wiring which had to be contracted to a licensed electrician. The community fundraised and purchase all the equipment required for the store when it opened, a lot of the equipment came from Garth’s old store.
On the ground breaking day a huge auction sale fundraiser was held, for which everything was donated including the auctioneer’s time. There was a wide array of items up for auction including house hold items, cars, camper trailer, antiques, even shares in a semi-truck.
The community has had other small fundraisers since the store has opened, and is always thinking up new ideas. Steve Jackson, a local artist, donated his painting of the old Campbell’s General Store. The painting was raffled off, raising 3000 dollars. At the annual July 1st celebration the store hosted a big barbeque on the street and sold bison steak dinners. The bison meat was donated from a local farmer.
Roseisle Community Grocery Co-op ltd.
Box 135 Roseisle, MB
Phone: (204) 828-3479