River Market started in 1977 after a group of people interested in obtaining whole foods had been operating a buying club for several years.
One of the members put an ad in the Stillwater Gazette calling a meeting for those interested in starting a Co-op store. When 50 people from throughout the area showed up, the idea began taking shape. For the next five months volunteers searched for a retail location, collected financial contributions by members, built shelves, and installed equipment.
The first site was a basement space on Second Street in downtown Stillwater. When the Co-op opened its doors in February, 1978, membership had already grown to 100.
The Co-op’s early inventory consisted mostly of bulk items, including beans, grains, flours, dried fruits and nuts, with some packaged items such as rice cakes.
The Co-op opened with a volunteer crew, no cash register, and inventory carefully displayed on handmade shelves. All sales were recorded by hand. For the first year, the Co-op had no paid staff. When no one showed up to work, a “closed due to lack of workers” sign was posted on the door.
In June, 1981, Valley Co-op began relocating to 215 North William. The Co-op had 1,800 square feet of space in a building that also housed a sign maker and a television repair shop. The new store came with an eight-door freezer, an eighteen-foot produce cooler, and sixteen feet of walk-in cooler space, allowing product expansion in all departments.
On June 23, 2000, we opened the doors of our current store on Main Street, where we continue serving our owners and the local community.
During our annual meeting in autumn of 2017 we showed the world premier of a video celebrating our 40th Anniversary. The video was created by Mick Caouette and Ann DeLaVerne and features employees and owners of River Market.