La Crosse co-op says yes to merger; Rochester vote pending

The La Crosse, Wis., folks say yes.

Now the proposed merger of a La Crosse food cooperative with a Rochester food cooperative is in the hands of the members of the Good Food Store in Rochester.

Votes were tallied this week from the 1,500 members of the People’s Food Co Â€op in La Crosse; 83 percent of the members who voted supported the plan.

Voting by Good Food Store members was delayed by a printing problem, said Dan Litwiller, president of the Rochester co-op. Members were supposed to receive ballots by mail on Aug. 1, but the snafu delayed that by a few days, he said.

Aug. 21 deadline


Rochester co-op members have until Aug. 21 to vote. Ballots may be mailed in, dropped off at the store or brought to a special meeting on Aug. 21. Two-thirds of the voting members must approve of the merger for it to happen.

"We've been talking to a lot of people. We think there is a lot of passive support for it," Litwiller said.

However, there are also outspoken opponents to the merger and to a related development project in downtown Rochester.

"We do have a core of people that remain opposed to this," Litwiller said. "We know they will turn their ballots in. That's why it is important to get those passive supporters to vote."

Downtown development

The merger is the first step in a two-part plan to move the Good Food Store from northwest Rochester to a larger location in a planned "Urban Village" development at First Avenue and Sixth Street Southwest.

The developer, Gerrard Cos. of La Crosse, is working with the city of Rochester to develop a four-story apartment building with ground-floor retail space for the Good Food Store. Gerrard has a history of working with the People's Co-op in La Crosse.

"So by voting yes on the merger, people are also supporting the development," he said. "If the merger goes through, that's a done deal."

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