Gail Graham is a veteran co-op manager and director as well as a co-op movement historian and collector. She has provided over 20 years of strong management during organizational growth at Twin Cities co-ops—Wedge, Seward, and Mississippi Market—and has supplemented that work with leadership on the board of directors of co-op distributors, of regional co-op associations, of United Natural Foods Inc., and of the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network. Her dedication and generosity continue today in all of these areas of local co-op, regional associations, and national leadership bodies.
This Lawrence, Kansas, consumer cooperative, often known as “the Merc,” has served its local community and region for 30 years. When Wild Oats opened a store in Lawrence in l994, squeezing the co-op’s sales and resources, the Merc’s leadership roused members to invest more co-op capital and return the store to growth. Community Mercantile’s efforts led to the departure of Wild Oats three years later, inspiring other food co-ops by the co-op’s turnaround. Presently managed by Jeannie Wells, the Merc also has been an exemplary educator through launching and expanding the activities of the Community Mercantile Education Foundation, a tax-exempt organization headed by the co-op’s education director Nancy O’Connor.
Cooperative Innovation and Achievement:
Along with his years in co-ops and four years as general manager leading Seward Co-op in Minneapolis to consistent profitability and growth, Stuart Reid has been active with the local co-op grocers association, the Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops; he has overseen this year’s physical expansion at Seward Co-op; and he helped the recently opened Eastside Food Co-op. He got hooked on the excitement of co-op startups and this spring resigned a great job at Seward in order to be the first general manager of a new co-op, Just Foods in Northfield, Minnesota, that is scheduled to open later this year.
Stephen Wolfe has worked with CDS since 1990, making enduring contributions to the success of new and expanding cooperatives. This past year, Steve went well above and beyond the call of duty through his participation in the NCGA reorganization project. His financial model analyzed the impact of combining 11 organizations into one. His graciousness, patience, thoughtful questions and patient explanations help co-op managers increase their skills and abilities to implement the plans. Steve’s work has also assisted cooperative development in the areas of sustainable forestry, value added agriculture, senior housing, worker co-ops and many other sectors. He always brings a fresh perspective, careful analysis and patience to his projects..
Marilyn Scholl has inspired, trained, and otherwise touched hundreds of cooperators over years of management and consulting work. Now based in Vermont and a member of the Cooperative Development Services team, she has provided especially valuable leadership in major food co-op strategic changes. In recent years she provided extensive policy governance training that helped transform the focus of co-ops boards. More recently she provided leadership to the transition team that facilitated the intense and complex reorganization of the regional cooperative grocers association network into a united body, the National Cooperative Grocers Association. NCGA’s Robynn Shrader, quoting poet William Stafford, called Marilyn “a point of light” for all of us cooperators.