Ahren’s Updates: 2023

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Ahren Grunow, General Manager Update: May 2023


I’m not sure if this phrase is ever not said – by literally everyone – but it’s been a busy month! One of our perpetual priorities at the Co-op is having a positive and sustainable workspace and culture. To do that right it takes effort, patience, mindfulness, empathy, and of course, fun. It becomes a recipe, with little adjustments here and there to find the right groove. I’ve also made it mandatory for staff to listen to nothing but Taylor Swift. JK, that’s just me.

Recently our store leadership had a great discussion around what it means to incorporate more empathy and therefore, vulnerability into the workplace. It’s never an easy conversation, nor is it a quick one. But the hope is that we continue to create an environment where staff (and everyone) feel safe to express themselves and that we create a space that promotes bringing fresh and creative ideas to the forefront. I continue to be amazed at the great ideas staff bring forth.

We also had a much-needed staff party (after the LOOONG winter) to celebrate our team’s hard work. It was so well-deserved. This industry is not easy, and I am so grateful for everything they have done and continue to do. We celebrated at Up Yonder with games, great food, raffle prizes, and some of the hardest Co-op trivia this side of the Sawtooth Mountains.

As for me, I’m excited to see Taylor in June where I trade in my button up shirt for that bejeweled jean jacket and a wrist full of friendship bracelets.


April 2023

Good day and Happy Earth Month! We’ve spent the last few months analyzing the owner survey data and want to share our key findings.
– Surveys were sent to approximately 2500 active owners
– Roughly 470 owners (19%) completed the survey

Product & Workplace Feedback 

  • Approximately 75% feel that our product offerings meet their needs
  • Roughly 56% feel it is either very or extremely important to offer culturally diverse products and brands and almost 60% feel it is either very or extremely important to partner with diverse members of the local community
  • Owners surveyed prioritize the co-op values of providing healthy food options, sustainable business practices, and a great workplace

Opportunities for the Co-op 

Survey respondents would like to see continued efforts in:

  • More house made deli products and bread/bakery offerings
  • Affordability of products
  • More sustainable packaging solutions and reducing single-use plastics

Thank you to everyone who completed the survey. Your feedback truly helps provide insight to our Board and operational directions.



  • The survey was organized and conducted in partnership with the University of Wisconsin – Madison – Center for Cooperatives.
  • To read past editions of Ahren’s updates, keep scrolling.

General Manager: February 2023

In last month’s email update, I touched on some of the ways the current economy is impacting the grocery industry, and thus, our Co-op. This month I want to continue the thread on the pricing and products we source, as well as highlight what makes shopping (and working!) at the Co-op truly meaningful and unique.

National Price Trends // Dec 2021 to Dec 2022

  •  – Dairy impact – high:  butter prices have increased YoY by almost 32%
  •  – Average price for a dozen eggs increased almost 60%
  •  – Lettuce prices – up nearly 25% (due to an insect-borne virus that wiped out 80% of the main California crop)

The cost of eggs is no surprise to most of us (except perhaps Taylor Swift). At this year’s Grammy Awards even Taylor was asked by host Trevor Noah if she could get her fans to do something about the price of eggs. As much as I would love to have Taylor and her Swifties influence grocery prices for the better, that isn’t a reality.

What *is* a reality: the Co-op’s dedication to working directly with and supporting small producers. Small, local farmer’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and sound animal husbandry practices means they’re less likely to be affected by illnesses like the bird flu or crop failure. This leads to greater stability for the farmer, reduces the need to hyper-inflate prices due to shortages, AND helps us minimize the impact on you.

It’s incredibly meaningful that the Co-op and our local partners can keep some prices stable for you (while national trends increase).  It’s quite unique that all of us, together, are also supporting small, local businesses that have a positive impact on our environment and community.

As of this writing our Larry Schultz Extra Large eggs are $4.49. We hope Taylor and Trevor would be proud, but more importantly, we’re glad the price has stayed within reason for you. Thanks for shopping with us.


January 2023

Hello friends of the Co-op!

Our number one priority for the store is to take care of the customers – from purchasing products, to trying out new ways to give owners the best deals, to providing a safe environment, we do it all with you in mind. I definitely want to acknowledge that the impacts of our slowing economy and rising prices are challenging, but won’t prevent us from keeping you as top priority. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, at home food costs have increased by almost 12% over the last year and continue to increase due to inflation. We are doing everything we can to source products that continue to meet the quality and value standards of you and the Co-op.

If a specific product gets too expensive, our team of managers and buyers work to find a comparable item with the same quality but with a lower price tag. (As my friendly reminder and plug for sustainability, you can always save by buying in bulk or special ordering.) Even as our team works hard at finding new items, and keeping costs as low as possible, the rural grocery industry also experiences the hardships of our economy. Our distributors, which are limited at times due to our Up North location, continue to run into supply issues which tends to lead to a greater level of out-of- stocks.

Regardless of challenges, we work hard to make sure we have products on our shelves that fit your needs. If you think something should be on our shelves that’s not, we welcome feedback through comment cards, by talking to us in-store, or via email. Please feel free to email me directly at gm@cookcounty.coop. Chances are that we can find a product that you’re looking for.

Each year offers plenty of curveballs and changes but we are excited to always keep growing, finding new ways to stay innovative, and stay committed to our community-focused values.


December 2022

Hello Co-op Friends!
As I mentioned last month, one of my goals is to create more opportunities to interact with all of you. I will cover various topics like what it means to be a co-op and a co-op owner, as well as the impacts we all can make together. I decided to start by answering some of our most frequently asked questions (FAQs). Some of them may seem basic but we try our best to keep a beginner’s mind, and our board and staff routinely revisit our ends and core values.

What’s the difference between a food cooperative and a “regular” grocery store?
There are many things that differentiate food cooperatives from a typical grocery store. Co-ops are owned by the people who shop there and use its services. Ownership is rooted in community, and as a Co-op we are able to respond and focus our efforts on local needs. We focus on sourcing products that are: healthy, natural or organic, ethically raised, and sustainably harvested. We prioritize working with as many local farmers, vendors, and distributors as possible. We also prioritize taking care of our staff by providing competitive wages, health insurance, and an environment that promotes growth and support.

Can anyone shop at the Co-op?
Yes! Everyone is welcome to shop at the Co-op. You do not need to be an owner. We strive to be inclusive, safe, and free of discrimination for all.

Why are prices at the Co-op higher than other grocery stores?
The majority of our products are made using the best ingredients available (even in the “junk food”). Organic crops take greater effort since they don’t use dangerous or hazardous chemicals during the growing process. Meat and seafood products are raised using ethical and sustainable methods, all of which take more time to raise. Grass-fed cattle take roughly 30% longer to raise than grain-fed cattle, but can be raised using sound regenerative agriculture methods that help the planet. More time equals more money, which is why our prices are sometimes higher than conventional grocery stores.

More to come on pricing in January. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you a great holiday season!

November 2022

Co-op Shop Talk with Ahren, General Manager

Hello Co-op Friends!

One of my goals for the Co-op is to increase communication with you in a variety of different ways. I hope to bridge gaps where our owners and community feel we need more – or different – ways of connecting.

One considerate owner emphasized the importance of creating these opportunities to remind us all what a cooperative is all about, the benefits of ownership and shopping at a co-op, and how together, we make positive impacts locally. I’ll share more on this next month.

I want to thank those who’ve met with me about how to reach more people and why it’s vital. Your feedback is both appreciated, important, and helps us move forward collectively. Going forward our emails will be posted on the bulletin board by the cafe microwave and my updates will also be posted on our website. Please keep the feedback coming and be sure to grab a 21-22 Annual Report the next time you shop!