“The co-op for me is a gathering place, a food community that is unique not only in quality of foods available, but also in our willingness to educate ourselves and others about how our food choices directly impact not only our nutritional health, but also connect us directly to the health (or lack of health) of the farms, farmers, and environment that sustains us.”
Pat Kerrigan, Produce Coordinator, Rollin’ Oats Journal, April/May 1993
The co-op began with a desire to bring a food co-op to the Linden Hills area and build community. In July of 1975, about 20 people congregated in Linden Hills Park in response to an ad that Carol Vaubel placed in the Linden Hills Line. Interest grew in the community as dedicated members canvassed Linden Hills businesses and neighborhoods talking about the benefits of a food co-op.
At a meeting in January, the fledgling co-op had $387 in the bank. Through the next few months, the group gained support by recruiting members and selling coupons redeemable for when the store opened, raising over $4,000 to open the store. In February, the co-op signed a lease with Upton Alley at 4303 Upton Ave S. Volunteers finished the floors, built the shelves, installed the refrigerators and readied the store for opening. On March 1st, 21 days before the co-op opened, Linden Hills Co-op had 160 members.
A group of members decided on 5 principles that would guide their co-op.
Community spirit among people working together
Alternative to corporate exploitation
Low cost food for everyone
Education in non-hierarchical, non-exploitative organization
Education in nutrition
Linden Hills Co-op opened their first location on March 22nd, 1976.
In the first six weeks the store was open, the total income was about $1,700. By August, the co-op had 400 members. Around this time, department coordinators began to receive payment for their work at the store, $2.75/hour. Member-volunteers made up the majority of the workforce, and worked for a 20% discount. Members were required to work at least 4 hours a month. Volunteers worked in the store, babysat for fellow members, and worked on various member committees: financing, recycling, store renovations, telephone trees, social events, community outreach, the co-op newsletter and more.
In December of 1977, a group of member-volunteers issued the first Rollin’ Oats Journal.
In1981, the co-op moves to 4603 Upton Ave S.
By 1981, the co-op had already outgrown their space. The co-op reached out to the community for raising funds through stock purchases, loan requests, coupons, and general donations and raised money to lease the nearby Hawkinson's Grocery store at 4603 Upton Ave S. After a successful move, the co-op had their highest sales yet, $650 thousand, and employed 22 workers. Members volunteered over 12,000 hours throughout the year.
The same year, the board of directors and members issued a revised statement of purpose:
To acquire and distribute low cost, high quality food and other products by maintaining a cooperative food store in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Sell those foods and products which are untreated, unrefined, unadulterated, unpackaged and natural whenever practicable.
Promote community nutrition awareness through responsible education.
Support farmers who treat their land and products with an ecological awareness of the effects of chemicals on the land and the welfare of people working with and consuming farm products.
Encourage conservation of natural resources by selling bulk products when possible. To minimize costs, customers should supply their own containers.
Support other organizations which reflect the concerns of the membership.
Conduct our business in a manner than enhances the quality of life in our community and remains responsive to its needs within the general manner described above.
“Community involvement is essential for food stores and organizations. It establishes you as an integral part of your neighborhood or town and underscores your efforts to enhance the quality of life in your area.”
–May-June Issue of Rolling Oats Journal, 1985.
Previous to 1985, the co-op was functioning as a volunteer worker co-op, which meant that members were required to work at least 4 hours a month at various volunteer tasks in order to receive a discount. The patronage refunds were allocated based on how many hours were worked. On January 1st of 1989, the co-op officially transitioned to a consumer-based hybrid co-op, meaning that members didn’t have to work to be members. Members were required to put a financial investment in to the store and their patronage refunds were based on how much they spent during the year. The co-op still had a working member program, where members could volunteer for a greater discount.
In 1991, the co-op hired their first general manager to oversee their 5 person management (previously coordinators) team. Also in 1991, a modified version of the co-op’s mission statement was published in the April edition of the Rollin’ Oats Journal with a greater focus on promoting ecological awareness and maintaining positive relationships with co-op employees.
In 1996, the co-op moves to their third location at 2813 W 43rd Street.
In February of 1994, the co-op had 1,100 members. In late 1994, the co-op signed a lease with Lake Harriet Plaza at 2813 W 43rd Street, just around the corner from its second location, with renovations to begin in August of 1995. The new location would include a cooking classroom, and eventually meat and deli departments and a coffee and juice bar.
In June of 1996, the co-op introduced the green patch program, which would reward members for bringing their own bags by giving them the option of donating 5 cents for each reused bag to a local environmental charity. This program continues through today. The co-op also hosted several annual events during this time including the Co-op Community Carnival, Love Fest, a Local Harvest Festival and Rock the Hills.
In fall of 2002, Linden Hills Co-op co-founded Midwest Food Connection with the Wedge and Lakewinds. Midwest Food Connection works with Minneapolis Public Schools to educate children about local food and sustainable farming.
The board of directors decided to discontinue the Member Working Program. The co-op had grown enough to employ a large fulltime staff and no longer needed the member-volunteers. Shortly after, a Member Involvement Committee was formed, consisting of a board member, co-op staff, and several members seeking ways to get more members involved, despite the loss of the worker program.
The board also redefined the co-op’s guiding principles (or ends policies) to what they are today.
Linden Hills Co-op
Provides and promotes healthful choices for its members and shoppers
Provides, uses, and promotes earth friendly, sustainable products
Encourages activism on sustainability, health and nutrition-related issues
Builds community within Linden Hills and neighboring communities
In 2005, the co-op opens Linden Hills Natural Home.
On March 1, the co-op opened a second branch of the business, Linden Hills Natural Home, in a nearby house. Linden Hills Natural Home had a variety of natural home needs from gardening tools to cleaning supplies to towels and bedding, clothing and more. For a period of time, Linden Hills Natural Home even had electric cars for sale.
Co-op staff led ecological initiatives like the commuter challenge, encouraging members to bike or walk to the co-op to win a prize. A staff-led Green Team monitored the co-op’s recycling, waste production and energy use in efforts to make the co-op as sustainable as possible.
In 2010, the co-op moves to their fourth location at 3815 Sunnyside Ave.
With over 5,200 members and close to 100 employees, the co-op moved to its current location on Sunnyside Ave. The co-op decided to combine their grocery and natural home locations in to one larger space and made an effort to include many earth-friendly features as possible.
In 2011, local artists from Broken Cow painted the farm scene that adorns the co-ops outer walls.
In February, a group of dedicated Linden Hills Co-op members formed LHC’s Climate Action Team.
Today, the co-op remains committed to supporting the community. Guided by a staff-led donation committee, the co-op gives back over $40,000 to community groups each year, donating to over 70 organizations.
The Linden Hills Co-op community continues to grow. Linden Hills Co-op has almost 9,000 members and carries hundreds of local products.
In February, the co-op began a store remodel of their current location.