Success stories

Marquette Food Co-op

Marquette, Michigan

As a result of careful planning, industry experience, exceptional staff, an investment in state-of-the-art technology, and financial partnerships, the Marquette Food Cooperative is poised for a fresh and inviting future.

The Marquette Food Cooperative (Co-op) is a community-owned, organic and natural food grocery store specializing in regional products. Since the Co-op opened its doors in 1971, it has been a popular fixture. A nine-member board of directors determines the direction of the business using input from its 4,000 members. This direction is executed by the general manager, Matt Gougeon, and implemented through 97 employees.

Although well-liked within their communities, historically, the co-op model has often proven to be financially limited. But the Marquette Food Co-op hasn’t followed this trend: the Co-op is downtown Marquette’s largest employer, one in four Marquette residents are members and it meets or beats its financial metrics every day.

Much of the Co-op’s current success can be attributed to a $4.6m expansion in 2014 in which the retail space was effectively tripled. The new location offers a teaching kitchen, a large deli section, self-serve hot/cold food bar and café seating. The space allows for more diverse product lines, greater volume and room for customers to enjoy one-stop shopping. A staffed help desk is a unique feature.

The Co-op began discussing expansion in 2010. By fall 2013, their plan, including the purchase of a new building, was finalized. To meet their strict timeline, they needed to complete facility improvements before winter began. Northern Initiatives stepped in at a crucial juncture with a $98,000 loan to allow the improvements to begin while the financing structure was determined. Over the next three months, financing was completed with a combination of traditional lending by Range Bank and bridge financing provided by Northern Initiatives ($400,000) and the Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund.

True to their mission, the Co-op is a significant employer and purchaser and purveyor of U.P. grown or produced foods. The expansion resulted in a 10 percent spike in purchasing local products and a similar increase in the number of vendors selling to the Co-op.

Marquette Food Co-op Impacts:

  • Jobs Created: 35
  • Jobs Retained: 62

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