History of Spiral
History of Spiral Natural Foods
The first organizing meeting was held October 9, 1978, in the Community Hall at the Hastings Library. It was open to anyone interested in becoming a member and helping start up the co-op. There were 75 people who attended, with 66 of them who signed up to help. Topics of discussion included: legal and financial aspects of starting a co-op; someone from the Stillwater Co-op who talked about their experiences in starting a co-op. Refreshments, including herb tea, fresh apple juice, coffee and whole goodness cookies and bars were served.
Spiral Foods Co-op offered 3,500 shares of stock for sale at $3.00 per share to fund start-up costs, of which 750 were voting shares, entitling buyers to the right to vote on issues brought before the general membership. 2,750 shares were non-voting shares. Each member was allowed to buy 1 voting share; additional shares bought by the same member were non-voting shares. The Spiral Foods Co-op operated entirely on volunteer labor in the beginning. Volunteering at least 4 hours per month entitled members to a bigger discount. The store was open to the public.
The primary focus in the beginning was on healthy foods that were not available in regular grocery stores, including “whole grains and flours, dried beans and peas, cheeses, yogurt, juices and local produce.” Another consideration was that members wanted to buy food without artificial additives, such as colors, flavors or preservatives. The co-op also offered members a cost savings on products due to buying in bulk.
Spiral Foods Co-op opened for business on February 10, 1979 at 220 Sibley St., the old National Guard Armory. The co-op solicited donations of funds, equipment, such as refrigeration units, scales, sinks, containers, etc. In addition, volunteers contributed the labor necessary to make the building usable, including painting, installing and constructing shelves.
The co-op quickly grew out of those small quarters and moved twice within the downtown area before settling in at 302 Second St in 1992. During that time, the co-op also changed from being an annual fee and discount system for members to an equity based system where members paid a $100 share to become a member-owner. Membership dropped dramatically during that time with less than 50 members remaining after the transition.
The co-op still continued to have strong sales in supplements and bulk, but overall sales declined. In 2008 the Board and management tried to figure out a way to keep the co-op thriving and regaining sales. After working hard to get people to become member-owners, they increased from 67 members to over 300 by late 2010. But even with that accomplishment and some bright spots in sales, the co-op had a bleak future. At the end of 2010, the Board changed management to see if they could revitalize the store. Within months of that decision, the co-op found out that their building was being sold and they would need to move or close their doors.
Very quickly the co-op sought the help of co-op consultants and mapped out a relocation plan that would be in 2 Phases. The first phase was to raise $14,000 in donations from the community that would be matched by a grant. That money would be leveraged to get more consulting help to map out a location, store design and financing package. Staff and Board worked hard to achieve that goal and community members showed their support in dollar amounts from $2 to $500.
The site at Highway 55 and Westview was selected and an announcement meeting was held at the Country Club on May 5th. At the same time, Phase 2 was launched with the goal of raising $200,000 in just 5 weeks in order to move ahead with the project. As the deadline neared, the co-op had raised about $110,000 and it looked like the co-op may have to close its doors. But an angel investor came through with $75,000 in the final hour.
Spiral Natural Foods opened its doors in its new location on September 2, 2011 to a great reception. The new store was half the size of the 2nd street location. Even so sales had nearly quadrupled by 2015 and the smaller size was beginning to shown. More shoppers and member-owners wanting there co-op to be able to offer more for the community. The history will continue to be written by the many committed people who have helped make this co-op exist since 1978.