The sale of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) to a Los Angeles-based private investment firm has sparked concerns over the future of other similar business models, including clients and owners of Aldergrove-based Otter Co-op.
MEC was started in 1971 by mountain climbers looking to source and distribute gear; members joined with a fee but owned part of the venture, which helped drive the direction of the business.
The Vancouver-based company said the transition from a co-operative structure to a subsidiary of Kingswood Capital Management is needed to ensure a stable future for the business.
Federated Co-operative Limited released a statement on Thursday, noting that they are saddened by that announcement and that there are no plans for them to ever sell in a similar manner.
“Being a co-op doesn’t guarantee that we’ll thrive, but it also doesn’t mean that we’ll stumble,” the statement read. “It has been an incredibly challenging year for co-operatives, as it has been for all businesses, but we are continuing to earn our members’ loyalty by staying true to our values and being here to serve our communities when it matters most.”
The Co-op brand is used by a network of retail co-operative associations across Western Canada, with more than 160 local Co-ops with 1.9 million members that make up the Co-operative Retailing System.
Associations are independent organizations owned by their members, who democratically elect a local board of directors to govern the business.
Jack Nicholson, CEO of Otter Co-op, said he is not sure how the MEC sale even occurred as quickly as it did, but that the Co-op will always be there to serve it’s members.
“I love the model because everything stays right here,” Nicholson told the Aldergrove Star. “Your money is not going somewhere far away like Texas or Toronto; it’s right here where it will stay in the community because we are here to serve the community.”
Otter Co-op was founded in 1922, is headquartered at 248th Street and Fraser Highway, and has roughly 53,000 members.
“We still believe that we’re stronger together because that’s what Co-ops are all about. We remain confident in our commitment to serving your communities.,” the statement continued. “To put it plainly, we’re committed to remaining a co-operative.”
A MEC outlet in located in Willowbrook at 6121 200th St.
More info on the local Co-op can be found at www.otterco-op.crs/sites/otter.
Is there more to this story?