By: Halle On: October 20, 2020
by Alexandria Lamont – Media Coordinator
So far, we’ve learned that the original founders of MFC committed resources too soon but were responsible for instituting the groundwork and foundation for their successors. While worry of potential failure once kept the group up at night, now their dream was coming into full physical fruition.
Upon finding a location, the group also found a nearby grocery store that had just gone out of business, and they proceeded to purchase all of the equipment. With funding, a new location, and setup secured, Medford almost had its own food co-op. Now began the search for someone qualified to run a multimillion-dollar operation.
Emile Amarotico was a well-known businessman in the community, and was selected to become the Co-op’s first General Manager. Amarotico knew what it took to get a start-up business going and how to keep it going.
“In addition to founding and managing Standing Stone, Amarotico has been a management consultant and taught accounting and food and beverage management at Southern Oregon University,” stated a Mail Tribune article when Amarotico was chosen out of 15 highly qualified applicants.
The Co-op grew under Amarotico’s leadership: 22 staff members, seven Board members, and 2,400 owners. In the spring of 2013, Emile Amarotico accepted the general manager position at the Ashland Food Co-op. Just before the second anniversary celebration in August, Anne Carter took the lead as the new general manager.
Under Carter’s leadership, the Co-op started producing many of the grab-n-go items in-house and saw tremendous growth in the department in 2014 (520% growth over 2013). Sales and number of owners continued to grow. 2015 was a very good year with continued sales growth and steady performance across all departments, as well as growing community support with ownership surpassing 2,800 households. 2016 was a year of change and progress. Plans for the café expansion in the annex were in place and moving forward, and staff and owners hoped for completion sometime in the spring of 2017. As with many construction projects, delays pushed The Café opening to November 13, 2017. The Café continues to grow and thrive.
MFC’s ten-year vision positions the Co-op as a community leader in the local food system, cooperative enterprise, nutrition and health education, and employment. Medford Food Co-op envisions continued support and growth of local farms and food producers, an expanded local food distribution system to make local, organic food readily available to all residents of the Rogue Valley, and a strong community donation/grant program to encourage and promote businesses and organizations with compatible goals and ends.
What can we learn when we look at the past? What did we learn when we looked at our cooperative origins? We learned how we’ve overcome big obstacles as a community before, and how to plan better for our future. We learned that distant dreams can become concrete realities. We learned that perseverance prevails even in the roughest of times. With some hope, determination, and cooperation– we can dream big.
We want to thank the following people for taking the time to provide first-hand accounts, articles, and historical documents in order to make this brief history possible:
Kira Lesley, Archivist, Southern Oregon Historical Society
"Fantastic Finale" is part three of a three-part history of Medford Food Co-op.
Written by MFC Media Coordinator Alexandria Lamont, with input and assistance from John Statler, John Miele, Jim Sims, Ben Truwe, Roger Noyes, Paige West, and Kira Lesley.