MINNEAPOLIS -- Owners at three Minneapolis co-ops are voting this month to decide whether or not to consolidate. If passed, Wedge, Eastside and Linden Hills would form a single cooperative.
Voting at The Wedge Community Co-op wrapped up Tuesday. Eastside Food Co-op members have until Monday, while Linden Hills Co-op voting wraps up Oct. 27.
"So we're very strong in our own individual neighborhoods and that's important to us but we also recognize that the grocery market in the Twin Cities is changing and very large competitors are coming in. We want to make sure that every resource that we have can be best used," said Amy Fields, general manager at Eastside in northeast Minneapolis.
Fields is hoping owners vote in favor of the consolidation. According to Fields, shoppers would not notice many of the changes. The store names would stay the same, there would be no layoffs and pricing could get better.
"We'll get better pricing because grocery is a volume business," she said.
If consolidated, there would be more than 32,000 members and $75 million in sales with a projected savings of more than $300,000 per year. It would increase pretax operating income by 29 percent in 2018.
"That's not enough to really lower prices. That's not enough to pay employees more and do all the good things we wish the co-op would be doing if it was more connected to the community," said Dan Scoggins, who is running for the EFC board and is against consolidating.
But Fields said it's more about being able to specialize.
"We felt like we could take redundancies out of the back of the house operations and really provide for our owners a much more strategically solid business," Fields said.
But many of the owners against the consolidation said they are most concerned about what happens when a co-op becomes too large.
Scoggins said he wanted "to emphasize to the members how important it is to keep the community involved in your co-op as opposed to having your co-op become a chain. That's probably the biggest thing."
In order for the consolidation to happen, at least two-thirds of voters must approve it at each co-op. However, a consolidation could still happen between two of the three co-ops if the Wedge and only one other co-op votes in favor.