跳到主要内容
Man standing next to shelves in a pharmacy
Northern Star Cooperative 服务 played an integral role in keeping a pharmacy in Deer River, 明尼苏达州., to serve residents including 小维克·威廉姆斯.
合作精神
C杂志

Northern Star Cooperative helps rural communities thrive

Northern Star Cooperative 服务 has played an integral role in helping the rural communities in Deer River, 明尼苏达州茁壮成长.
马修·王尔德
2023年6月12日

小维克·威廉姆斯. is thankful he only needs to drive a couple of miles to pick up medications at the Essentia Health pharmacy in tiny Deer River in northern 明尼苏达州esota. When the local drug store’s former owner announced plans to retire and close the business four years ago, the town faced the possibility of losing an essential service.

“Our community is aging,” says Williams, a recent retiree. “Medication is an integral part of our existence, including mine. Convenience is important.”

The former Itasca County sheriff could easily drive 15 miles to Grand Rapids, 明尼苏达州., the closest city with a drug store. But that trip would be burdensome for many elderly Deer River residents, 他说, especially during harsh 明尼苏达州esota winters.

Northern Star Cooperative 服务, based in Deer River, played a key role in keeping the pharmacy. While cooperatives are mainstays in rural communities, medications and health care products are not traditional co-op offerings. But Northern Star leaders say they are willing to do whatever is necessary to help area residents.

“We do things to ensure our community remains alive and well,” says Williams, a co-op board member. “It’s one of the main missions of Northern Star Co-op. The strength of our business relies on the strength of the people around us, our customers.”

Cashier helping a customer inside of a store that sells food, gifts and more The Market Place in Deer River, 明尼苏达州., owned and operated by Northern Star Cooperative 服务, sells everything from ice cream to school sweatshirts.

Northern Star Cooperative 服务 at a glance

  • 皇冠hga010安卓二维码 and consumer/retail cooperative
  • Headquartered in Deer River, 明尼苏达州., with a service area from International Falls to Alexandria
  • 8000个成员
  • 13,000 propane customers
  • Sales of $67 million in 2022
  • Since 2009, Northern Star has paid nearly $19.4 million in cash dividends and equity retirements to member-owners, including more than $1.2 million in January 2023. The co-op’s average annual dividend over the last 10 years was nearly 6%.
  • Businesses include fuel, propane and lubricants, 便利店, Northern Star Market Place, 存储单元, 启动营销
  • Focused on community, supporting other local businesses and emphasizing philanthropy

健康的社区

The co-op initially signed a purchase agreement to buy the pharmacy business, but not the storefront. Shortly after that, Essentia Health, based in Duluth, 明尼苏达州., offered to buy the enterprise to complement its hospital and clinic in Deer River. Knowing Essentia Health has considerable pharmacy expertise — the company operates 25 pharmacies in the Upper Midwest — Northern Star struck a deal that’s a win for all.

With the co-op’s blessing, Essentia Health bought the pharmacy and relocated it to Northern Star Market Place, a co-op-owned and -managed retail operation that was being remodeled and expanded at the time. Essentia Health signed a long-term lease for $3,000 per month. The town kept its pharmacy, Essentia Health expanded, and Northern Star generates more revenue through rental income and extra foot traffic in the store.

“Access to pharmacy services is important to providing high-quality health care and ensuring continuity of care,肯齐·霍曼说, who heads up ambulatory care pharmacy services for Essentia. “We are proud to offer our patients these services in the communities we are privileged to serve.”

The pharmacy is just one example of Northern Star’s willingness to adapt and provide products and services area residents need.

Man standing next to bulk propane tank branded with Northern Star Cooperative 服务 and Cenex logos 布拉德盒子, CEO of Northern Star Cooperative 服务, says the co-op has transformed to meet customer needs, while continuing to provide traditional services such as propane delivery.

Growing rural businesses

Rural communities often struggle to retain businesses and essential services as demographics change. Young people move out to find better opportunities and small farms and businesses dissolve and consolidate.

迈克尔·达杰, a University of 明尼苏达州esota Extension community economic specialist and business retention and expansion expert, 说医疗保健, 杂货店, hardware and lumber businesses are often the hardest for small towns to keep. Competition from online and big box retail giants have contributed to rural business struggles, 他补充说.

“Once a business leaves a rural community, it’s not likely another will take its place,” Darger says. “I won’t call it a crisis, but a lot of business owners at the end of the baby boomer generation are getting ready to retire and communities need to deal with that.”

Northern Star has embraced change to survive, says CEO 布拉德盒子. Established as an agricultural co-op 100 years ago, Northern Star has transformed into an energy and consumer/retail operation to meet the needs of its changing customer base.

Small farms, especially dairy farms, mostly disappeared near Deer River in the 1980s, 箱说. With them went the need for livestock feed and crop inputs.

Tourism, timber and mining industries became the driving economic forces in the region. Itasca County is a wooded area that’s home to more than 1,000 lakes and is a popular vacation and weekend destination. The need for fuel, propane, lubricants and 便利店 grew.

“For the cooperative to survive, we had to adapt and figure out ways to provide value to member-owners,盒子说.

在90年代早期, Northern Star took on debt to acquire the Solar Gas propane plant in Deer River from CHS. “That started our meteoric rise as a cooperative,盒子说. Other energy acquisitions followed. Today, Northern Star business ventures include:

  • Four 便利店
  • Three bulk petroleum facilities
  • Seven propane branches
  • Mini storage buildings with 174 units
  • Northern Star Market Place with a pharmacy, deli and foodservice; merchandise ranges from gifts made by local artisans, clothes and home decor to locally produced foods
  • 启动营销, a full-service social media, marketing and e-commerce management company that helps local businesses build brand and product awareness

Northern Star sales grew from $7 million in 1993 to $67 million in 2022. Co-op membership increased from hundreds to 8,000, Box reports. The propane customer base grew from zero to 13,000.

“Sometimes it can be a big hurdle to get co-op boards to understand the need for change,” says Box. “Our board has always been very good at figuring out what we need to do to survive and thrive.”

Two women working on a computer 尼基Osse, 左, and 谢尔比的盒子 work on marketing and social media strategies for Osse’s businesses in Deer River, 明尼苏达州. 谢尔比的盒子 heads 启动营销, part of Northern Star Cooperative 服务.

创造性思维

As a consumer-driven co-op, Box realized aggressive marketing and social media efforts were needed for continued success. The cooperative hired his daughter and former intern, 谢尔比的盒子, three years ago to develop a marketing program that was productive and cost-effective. This includes regular social media posts to boost brand awareness, 广告活动, a revamped website and an e-commerce site for Northern Star Market Place.

Recently, 谢尔比的盒子 incorporated digital advertising into the cooperative’s marketing plan. Sales have grown by millions of dollars in the past few years, and a focus on marketing is a big reason why, 箱说. He hopes to parlay that success with a co-op-owned business called 启动营销, which began taking on clients in March 2023.

“Many small businesses don’t have the know-how or time to do marketing and things necessary to be successful,盒子说. “We can use our expertise to help.”

Blueberry Hills Golf Course and Blueberry Hills Campground in Deer River, owned by Northern Star Office Manager 尼基Osse and her husband, 约旦, served as a beta test in 2022 for 启动营销. The goal was to boost business by increasing awareness through targeted advertising and social media posts on 脸谱网 and Instagram. 它工作. Social media views increased from 3,000 views to nearly 11,000 per month. Ad campaigns and specials also helped draw customers.

“We’ve never been as busy as we were last year,” reports 尼基Osse. “It’s hard to know how much it was because of Launch, but it helped.”

Box adds, “If our community succeeds, we succeed.”


Related news and stories
C杂志 2024年6月7日

The University of Montana Western offers a bachelor’s degree in natural horsemanship, which culminates in a two-day exhibition called the Colt Challenge.

C杂志 2024年6月6日

CHS has opened a new state-of-the-art facility to help speed development of agronomic solutions and products for farmer-owners and customers.

C杂志 2024年6月5日

Cooperative farmer-owners are eligible for discounts rates with Verizon and T-Mobile, available through CHS.