The parking lot at the Wetaskiwin Co-op was jammed with vehicles on April 23rd, 2015. Some of the crowd was there to purchase goods from an inventory exceeding $2B and well over 50,000 items. However on this day the bulk of the people were Co-op members who were in attendance to enjoy a beef-on-a-bun lunch for $2.00 (donated to charity), visit with friends and neighbors and most importantly, receive their annual rewards as members of the local business; their equity cheque. Wetaskiwin Co-op announced they returned over $2,000,000 in cash to their members at the Wetaskiwin Home and Agro Centre, Falun and the Co-op food store in Wetaskiwin.
Although the Co-op is much like any other local business, the stores are owned by Co-op members. A $10.00 lifetime membership fee provides members with a share in the ownership and entitles them to a share of profits from the sale of goods and services. “This makes us a different kind of business. Our profits are your profits and they are invested directly back into the community through you.”
Savings returned to members are proportionate to the amount each member purchased from the Co-op from November 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014. The return on purchases were: fuel 4%, food 5%, feed 2%, home 2%, agro 2%, liquor (Falun) 5%, In 2013, Co-op returned more than $2.3 million dollars to members and in the five years prior to that, the Wetaskiwin Co-op returned an additional $5 million in cash to its members.
The Wetaskiwin Co-op had a modest but essential beginning in 1917 by operating out of a box car on a railroad spur in Wetaskiwin. The local business was formed by a group of progressive individuals who saw the need for a member owned and operated facility. These early settlers envisioned a store that they could rely on for their every need. At that time they needed commodities like salt, flour, sugar, apples, feed, seed grain, and binder twine. Local members were notified when their supplies had arrived and would go to the box car to pick up their orders.
Since then, the Co-op has experienced continuous growth and purchased buildings and other assets needed to serve the membership. Glen Friesen, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Meridian Manufacturing Inc, Camrose Alberta brought greetings on Equity Day and remarked, “The Co-op is here today to say thank you as customers and partners in their business. Meridian also would like to thank this Co-op team and you, the members, for your support and business. The Co-op is not afraid to invest in capital to serve you better as you can see at this site. To meet your needs and serve you better during the peak season, they have purchased a truck and trailer to be able to deliver in a timely fashion. ”
Meridian serves the agricultural, industrial and oil and gas industries by manufacturing and supplying storage and handling products under names such as Friesen, Wheatland, Stor-King, and Grain Max. Meridian Manufacturing Inc. consists of seven sister facilities, each accommodating a large sales region, but working congruently to benefit customers the world over. They have expanded to include over 600,000 square feet of production space, four of North America’s largest powder bake ovens, an extensive trucking fleet and over 1000 employees. Meridian Manufacturing Inc. logos appear on numerous products at the Wetaskiwin Co-op.
Friesen explained how Meridian values the Wetaskiwin Co-op. “For the past 5 years, Country Junction has been one of the top performers in our system across Canada and in the last 3 years have been the number one Co-op retail outlet. This Co-op has developed a reputation across Western Canada as a leading agro retail. We are pleased to have Wetaskiwin Co-op as a dealer, partner and friend. They work extra hard for you and we are impressed and encouraged by their leadership, great work ethic and team play”.
Today the locally owned and operated Co-op runs a feed manufacturing facility providing feed to all corners of Alberta. The Co-op also operates a lumber, hardware and agro business and a state-of-the-art, self-serve cardlock facility at the Home and Agro Centre. The bulk petroleum department operates several bulk delivery units that deliver fuel throughout the Wetaskiwin region. A branch operation at Falun serves the members of this area with retail gas, cardlock, lumber, hardware, groceries and many other products.
On April 22nd, 2014 the Co-op expanded it’s product line in Wetaskiwin when Mr. Allan Halter, Manager, proudly accepted another set of keys when the former Sobeys store at 4703 – 50 Street became the new Co-op grocery store.
Since that humble beginning in 1917, the Co-op has faithfully served the community of Wetaskiwin and its members with quality products, excellent customer service and competitive prices while constantly staying alert to a changing market place. As peoples needs changed over the years, so has the Co-op but they try to live their slogan, “You’re at home here.” It’s just that the home has grown considerably from that 1917 railway car.