Your Co-op Stories

50th anniversary header

In celebration of our co-op’s 50th birthday, we asked members to share their stories of the Co-op. We were delighted to hear the memories, preferences, and visions that you shared. Here’s what you said!

“My friend, Dianne, sent me the Co-op Newsletter. Reading it, I was transported to Montpelier in the late ’70s where I began a series of relationships. The only one that lasted was with the co-op.  My love of Co-ops started with Hunger Mountain.”

Carol Braswell 

“From the early days when Ann Temple drove her pick-up truck to Boston, and we broke down bulk at the school in Plainfield, to being in the last neighborhood group in Montpelier, (the Meadow) to today, I have been a Co-op member for many of the last 50 years. I served on the Board when HMC was in the store at 403 Barre Street. I liked that space. As proud as I am of how many local member-owners are served by HMC, I do miss the sense of community in the smaller space. I was a volunteer notetaker for the Board in 2013. I support continued growth, so in ten years, I wish we could support the growth of satellite operations in surrounding communities. I hope we can support local farmers to grow produce year-round in an environmentally sustainable way. HMC is a big reason that I choose Montpelier as my home. I believe I will be healthy longer because of the benefits of organic food that is grown and produced locally.”

Johanna Nichols

“We had a buying group in Middlesex once a month to order healthy and organic food that wasn’t available locally. We were delighted when Hunger Mountain Co-op opened a store and we joined at that time. I worked my volunteer hours as a cashier and helped unpacking supplies. I still shop at the Co-op when I can although I now live in Burlington. I especially miss the bulk section.”

Barbara Buckley

“Hi! I moved to Montpelier in 1982, we rented an apartment on Foster St. I found out about the Co-op and became a working member. I really enjoyed going down to bag bagels or cut cheese. It was great fun!”

Jody Pettersen

“I have some very fond memories of the Co-op, especially from when it was on Barre Street. I believe it was near where Kismet is now. I remember every Saturday I would come in with my mother, and we would volunteer by sweeping the floors, cleaning the windows, and stocking up all the dried fruits, and seeds, and vegetables. As a reward, I would get a bag of dried apples that tasted so good.

To me, the Co-op always had a smell of freshness, and herbs. Walking into the Co-op to this day, it still has that familiar smell that I love. I use my canvas bags to grab what I can since I live across the street. The coffee is made by my friend Alex.

I started taking my son to the co-op as soon as he could walk. I showed him we could get our own food out of dispensers, where everything was homemade or homegrown from local farmers.

Come Easter, I would get there early to grab some hot cross buns from Manghi’s for a sweet treat.

Congratulations of 50 years!!!! What a milestone!!!!

Liza Haviland

“A Co-op haiku:

Oh hot bar tofu
Perfect rectangles of love
Keep me fueled for days”

Claire Wheeler

“I worked at the Co-op from 1978 to 1985. 

A few notes of interest:  

The Co-op had a flour mill on the second floor of the Grange Hall. We contracted with wheat farmers in the Champlain Valley. The Co-op milled flour for all the co-ops in the state. There was no elevator. When we knew a shipment of grain was coming in or we had flour to send we would call a group of volunteers who would carry 50 lb bags of grain up the stairs or flour down the stairs. 

The Co-op bought other items in bulk besides food during the pre-order years. I still have a pair of Army surplus mittens with a trigger finger for shooting. Gary Ireland and I went to a snowshoe factory in Quebec to pick up 60 pairs of wood snow shoes.  

Dismantling the pre-order system and opening a store in Montpelier was very contentious. Many people felt the pre-order, neighborhood system with all members working both in their neighborhoods and at the Co-op was the heart and soul of the Co-op. 

Most of the co-ops in the state worked together and pooled orders. At one point there was a warehouse near Middlebury that was owned by all the co-ops. It went bankrupt. 

The move to Montpelier was all about opening a store. There was no co-op activity in Montpelier before the store. The store was in an old, brick, tremendously drafty, decrepit apartment building on Barre Street. 

Members submitted names for the Co-op before it moved. It couldn’t remain the Plainfield Co-op. Hunger Mountain won by a large margin.  

Happy cooperation everybody! “

Kathryn Gips

“More than a few times, I’ve seen a toddler happily snacking on leaves of kale or nori while their parent shops and it always makes me smile. You’d never see that at (insert any chain grocery store here). The memory that stands out most is the time I couldn’t find a carton of eggs from my favorite local farmer. The employee I asked ducked into the backroom to see if they had any in stock. When he came out, he explained that, ‘her chickens are molting so we won’t have her eggs for a while’. Being able to support local farmers and employees actually knowing the farmers who grow our food is why I shop at the Co-op.”

Amy Richardson

“This is not a real story but just to say I’m so proud of my member number, under 500! Many years of happy shopping and volunteering.”

Roberta Downey

“One memory is shopping with young children in the store, when it was located in what’s now the animal hospital on Barre Street — the early ’90s. It was during my low-energy afternoon time, that is — Teatime! For years I dreamed of a café within the Co-op. Then Presto! The wonderful Co-op community and staff made it a reality. A reality I would enjoy at all times of day and night! Its creation was a lot of hard work and vision — not simply a magic wand. Thank you!”

Jennifer Zollner

“Jane and I have been Co-op members for over 55 years. Our first association with the Co-op was in the late ’60s, when we would drive to Plainfield weekly to pick up wholesale quantities of food and bring them back to our house, where we would spend the evening re-packaging the food into smaller retail size packages. Members would then pickup their orders. Since we were new to Montpelier, this was a good way to meet our neighbors.”

Richard Staudt

“A HUGE shout out to ALL the amazing staff that make the Co-op viable for members – for their work, for showing up, for the kindnesses shown.

Thank you. My daughter was born 2 days after I’d knelt to do our Waterbury Ctr group’s paper work at “breakdown” in the old seminary building – that was 46 years ago. I thought it was kneeling that had given me such a stout back ache!”

Bern Rose

“I first came to Montpelier in 1974 & I remember the neighborhood ordering & breakdown, which was always great fun. I then moved to Plainfield, & it wasn’t until 1991 that I became involved again. The council was looking for a treasurer, & being a CPA & now living in Montpelier, I went to an “interview” at the next council mtg. I thought I was competing with others, but at the end of the meeting I was the new Treasurer.

Within a couple of years, the president resigned & I was chosen to be the next President. We had begun the process of deciding if & how we could find a larger space. With the help of the City Planner & the sale of some land from Allen Lumber, we were lucky to be the first building on Stonecutter’s Way. We had a building committee composed of Ned Flynn, the general manager, Paul Ohlson, the member representative, & myself. We met with the builders & architects each week to review the progress & additions to the original plans.

Prior to hiring Tim as our Accountant, it was up to Ned & I to prepare all of the financial statements & projections to present to the funding sources we were considering. What a relief when Tim took over!

Once the building was complete & we first opened, it was amazing to see the number of shoppers that came. It was a bit chaotic at times, but it all came together beautifully.

Although I’m still a member, I’m no longer a council member, but I’m now living in the Apts directly across from the Coop. I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

Chris McGregor

“In 1972, I remember putting in a bulk order on a mimeographed sheet of legal paper. Ann Temple would drive her pick up truck to Boston and return with bags and bins of organic food. We would meet at the New School in Plainfield on Saturday to break down the food into individual orders, clean up the mess we created, and wait for the next delivery. I was not involved in the move to the Plainfield location, but I remember trying to shop at the Barre & Granite Street building. Bins everywhere, even on the stairs. It was a nightmare! We still had a neighborhood Co-op order group – the Meadow Neighborhood. But then came the Barre Street building that felt so spacious! Larry Mires was the manager and there were many volunteers. I served on the Board as the minutes taker, maybe the Secretary. The neighborhood groups were phased out. Our family moved away in 1985 and I returned in 2010. The Co-op has moved to its current location. I volunteered to take minutes for the Board, which I enjoyed immensely and learned so much about policy governance. But I had to leave to care for our first grand baby. Subsequently, I served on the Board of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, again learning so much. Now, retired to Montpelier, I sometimes compare the two co-ops. I sometimes wish for a different lay-out with wider aisles and an expansion of the produce department. I love both co-ops and I feel so lucky to be back where I began.”

Johanna Nichols

“I was the milkman to the Co-op when we broke down bulk orders at the Unitarian Church. I was working with Ann and Eric Helt on the Morse Farm dairy at the time (1978) and we bottled raw milk in glass bottles. I’ve been a Co-op member ever since and am proud of all we have done in those years.”

John Snell

Stories From Our Community Partners