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HISTORY OF THE CO-OPERATIVE

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21st October 1917 – A public meeting of local fruit growers is held at the Mount Barker Hall. The meeting is chaired by Mr J Martin, and Mr A Booth acted as secretary. Mr Andrewartha proposes a society be formed, to be known as ‘The Mount Barker Cool Storage Co-operative Society’. Mr Wright seconds this and the motion is carried. During this meeting, promises of ₤2152 s10 are received for the purpose of building a cool store.

The first AGM is held on 8th November 1917 and the proposed ‘Articles of Association’ are tabled and agreed to. The following Directors are voted in: Mr J Martin (Chairman), Mr H Robinson (Vice Chairman), Mr A Booth (Secretary) Mr J Steicke, Mr J Enright, Mr E Thomas and Mr FH Sounness.

The new Co-operative was incorporated 1st May 1918 and the ‘packing and cool shed’ was officially opened 1st June 1918 by the Governor, Sir William Ellison-Macartney. 21st September 1937 the name is changed to “Mount Barker Co-operative Limited” (the Co-op). It has 75 shareholders and a paid-up capital of ₤5051.50.

The Co-op grew quickly, in extension to the fruit packing services the Co-op became a local commercial agent for farming equipment and by purchasing the ‘Mount Barker Stores Limited’ entered the retail market, providing groceries, clothing and household goods for the local community. An alliance with Wesfarmers opened the export market for local growers and co-ordinated markets within WA. In 1929, a joint venture was undertaken with the Plantagenet Roads Board. The Co-op installed a plant to generate electricity for the town. This arrangement continued until 1951 when the state electricity took over.

Throughout the Depression, the Co-op provided the local farming community critical support to continue economic and social activities by providing extensions of credit to a range of producers and consumers. As such, the Co-op continued to grow and in 1939 an extension to their packing sheds made them the owners of the largest cool stores in Australia with established export markets in Europe, UK, Far East and new markets opening in Asia.

In 1942, the Federal Government introduced a scheme for the compulsory acquisition of apples and pears. Cold store No 2 was built. The Federal Government also requested and underwrote the building of a Dehydration plant, supplying apples for distribution to its troops and for local sale. This plant was recognised as the most profitable in the Commonwealth. Mr HW Soothill was seconded to the “Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board” as Deputy Chairman – a testament to his abilities and expertise in the industry.

The outbreak of WWII saw the demise of the export market and many of the local producers were squeezed out of the market. In 1964 the Co-op ventured into the Seed cleaning business. However, industry was changing and the rural co-operatives were beginning to suffer. Wesfarmers began trading as a Proprietary Limited company and broke its alliance with the Co-op. The Co-op began to realise it had to make the transition from solely being a farmer’s co-operative to being more of a consumer’s co-operative in order to continue to grow. The transition was difficult, direction and policy was questioned and in 1975 profits slumped with no rebate or dividend being paid out.
The survival of the Mount Barker Co-operative came from its ability to explore new forms of investment and business opportunities that would continue to benefit both its shareholders and the local community at large. A bold redevelopment program began and the Packing Shed was transformed into a modern supermarket. Though there were many difficulties experienced in the transformation the new building opened in July 1978.
The Co-operative gradually moved into a more profitable position with an emphasis on expanding its retail operations.

In 1981 the Seed Shed and plant were extended and the Co-operative built a fuel depot which offered more accessible and cheaper fuel prices.  The Farm Merchandise and Hardware Departments were redeveloped and the new stores opened on the 17th September 1993.  By the late 1990's the Co-ops high performer was its seed operations, however, the increasing variety of seeds available and the restrictions on how seed was sold were all contributing to the risk involved in the seed industry.  After much discussion and assessing the situation Southern Seeds closed in 2003 and the equipment was sold.

By 1992, members were able to access a 24 hour fuel card facility and in October 2009 eftpos was also introduced to enable the general public to access fuel and not just members.

Keeping the supermarket viable meant incorporating new technologies and doubling the floor space.  By the year 2000 the focus was on developing the supermarket.  It was a challenging time during renovations.  A sea container serviced as the strongroom for all important documents and a temporary office was set up at the front of the old merchandise building.  A wood stove had to be installed because it was so cold for the office staff.  It was difficult to continue trading and attaching an old building to a new building whilst trading was challenging.

Ross Pickles opened the new supermarket on the 30th July 2002.  The $2.5m complex included a deli, a hot bread shop, cafe and an extended car park.  The increased floor space allowed the supermarket to be upgraded to a Dewsons outlet.

By 2003 the Management and Board were able to formulate a 5 to 10 year strategic plan for the overall Co-operative business.  In 2004 the upgrade on the supermarket's point of sale system and a new shareholder loyalty program was introduced.

The merchandise division had reached a critical point and the solution to this lay in the separation of the division into Hardware and Rural Services.  In 2008 a decision was made to improve the Co-op's rural services facilities by moving the facilities to a standalone building.  Land was purchased and the new Elders building was officially opened in March 2009 by Terry Redman MLA Blackwood-Stirling and the partnership between Elders and the Co-operative was confirmed.

By 2005 Metcash took over Foodland and the Dewsons supermarket became an IGA store.  The Supa IGA franchise has been very successful with sales continuing to grow as customers appreciate the advantages and rewards that come from shopping locally at their community-owned co-operative.

New Redevelopment

On the 14th June 2013 the new look Supermarket was opened to include two new retail spaces.  The extra space has been created out of the former cool rooms which had been retained on site and previously used for apple storage.  The expansion enabled a large and  welcoming foyer and the exposed timber beams used in the foyer were kept from the original cool rooms.  A new 250mLiquor Store also opened on the 1st July 2013, this was the major focus on the redevelopment of the new entry foyer and supermarket front end.

Cranbrook Fuel Installation

The Co-operative purchased a fuel site at 10 Hordacre Way in Cranbrook and fuel commenced trading in November 2013.  The general public and members are able to access 24 hour fuel using Member Card, Eftpos or Starcard for unleaded and Diesel fuel.  The site is a welcome addition to the town of Cranbrook that was without this essential service for some time.

The Mitre 10 business continues to grow with expanded ranges now including some trade and building supplies but is more focussed on the Home Improvement needs of the community.  In 2014 a complete makeover of the  Mitre 10 store was completed.  The store has a strong garden, hand and power tool offer to complement the plumbing and hardware offer.  A significant move has been the introduction of kitset kitchens incorporating home wares and accessories to complement this exciting new venture.

The Mount Barker Co-operative is proud of its achievements. The future looks positive and our community support continues to grow.

The Co-operative has evolved with time and is a unique type of business.  Profits remain in our local community to benefit the town through improvements to our facilities and most importantly rewards, dividends and rebates to our members. The Co-operative has donated in excess of $14 million to the community and members through dividends and discounts, loyalty vouchers and donations.

As we go forward we want the Co-op to be a sustainable and efficiently run business that will serve the needs of our members and our community well into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 


    
 

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Head Office

14 Lowood Rd

Mt Barker WA 6324

Ph: (08) 9851 3311

Contact Head Office

SUPA IGA

Cellarbrations

14 Lowood Rd

Mt Barker WA 6324
Ph: (08) 9851 3333
Ph: (08) 9851 3388 (Liquor)

Contact Supa IGA

Mitre 10

16 Lowood Rd

Mt Barker WA 6324

Ph: (08) 9851 3323

Contact Mitre 10

Rural Services

Lowood Rd

Mt Barker WA 6324

Ph: (08) 9851 3200

Contact Rural Services