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Centennial Monograph: United Cooperative Society


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Centennial Monograph: United Cooperative Society


A history of the United Cooperative Society from its inception through its state in the late 1960s.


Birger Koski





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The United Cooperative Society opened its doors in January 1907. The stock and fixtures of a private grocery store were purchased and set up in part of the building on Main Street which is now the main Co-Op building.

At first it was known as the Kaleva Co-operative Association, "Kaleva” being the ancient name of the Finnish people. The first manager was Matti Eekkala. The first eight years were lean and uncertain. They started with 187 members, mostly weavers and other workers in
the local woolen mill, who received small wages; yet they subscribed $1,600 for the Co-op's initial capital. Membership grew slowly, from 187 to 315, and annual sales fluctuated.

In 1911, the Kaleva Co-op became a member of the Eastern Finnish Co-operative Educational League. In 1912, the present Co-op building on Main Street was purchased on a time payment plan for $16,000.

In 1914 they purchased property on Powder Mill Road and erected a combination bakery and salesroom. Since then the Co-op has regularly baked Its own "democrat” rye bread. In 1915 the Co-operative League of the United States was established. with the Maynard Co-op as one of its charter members. In 1916, to meet the needs of its members, the Co-op added a meat department to the Main Store, and started a restaurant on the second floor of the Co-op building, During its peak years the restaurant served as many as 250 people a day.

In 1917, the Maynard Co-operative Milk Association by a majority vote decided to become a part of the Kaleva Co-operative; thus the dairy department came into being, located originally on the Powder Mill Road property. Forty-two members of the Milk Association refused to follow the majority and started a rival co-operative, the First National Co-operative Association which continued until 1941.

In 1919, six of the leading Finnish co-operatives In Massachusetts (Maynard, Fitchburg, Quincy, Norwood, Gardner and Worcester) pooled their capital and properties to create the so-called "Milllon-Dollar Co-operative". Incorporating under the name of the United Co-operative Society of New England, they set up a general office In Boston. This move caused the old familiar name of the Kaleva Co-operative Association to be discarded. But the "Milllon-Dollar Co-operative" experiment was doomed to fall, because the Individual co-ops had not learned to co-operate with each other. The joint co-operative liquidated in 1921. After the dissolution, the Maynard society was re-incorporated under Its present name of United Co-operative Society of Maynard.

Since then expansion and improvement have been continuous. In 1921, the Bakery was moved from Powder Mill Bead to the rear of the Main Street Store; a new oven and machinery were installed. In 1923, the Co-op established its own coal yard. Land was bought at a railroad siding off Summer Street; a new siding and coal storage warehouse (was) constructed.

In 1925, a large annex was added to the Main Store. The Dairy was moved to part of the new building, and new pasteurizing equipment enabled the Co-op to deliver the first pasteurized milk In town. The new structure also housed a repair garage for the growing fleet of trucks. In 1926, the Co-op purchased a small grocery store building (with its stock of merchandise) on the corner of Parker and Waltham Streets. This became the Co-op Branch Store. In 1926, (it) became a charter member of the Eastern Co-operative Wholesale, Inc.

With the passing of time, the needs of the members have changed; some departments have been discontinued, others added. In 1930, the restaurant was closed. In 1931, a new service for its farmer members was started: grain, feeds, fertilizers, and other farm supplies were made available in a new warehouse built on the end of the coal sheds. In 1933 a fuel oil truck was purchased for the distribution of petroleum products. Ice delivery service was begun in the spring of 1934. The same year land on the corner of Parker and Waltham Streets was purchased (including the land on which the Branch Store was located), and a Gasoline Service Station was erected. Storage facilities for fuel and range oil were provided by the Installation of three 10,000 gallon tanks at the coal yard. The Main Store was remodeled in 1935, to provide better service, and a new fish department was started.

In 1936, the old Branch Store building was tom down and anew completely modern structure erected. In 1936, membership passed the 1000 mark. On May 12, 1931, was organized the Young Co-operator’s Club. In October 1932, the Co-operative Women’s Guild was started. In 1932, Waldemar Niemela, manager since 1921, resigned and Arvo N. Rivers was appointed General Manager. In 1939, the first Children’s Co-op Day Camp was held at Vose Park. In 1941, the Main Store was remodeled into a modem supermarket, the first in town to sell groceries on a self-service basis.

In the same year, on October 30, a branch store was opened on Belmont Street in Worcester. In the fall of 1941, the United States entered World War II. A shortage of qualified employees began to cause difficulties, Rationing brought additional complications for both customers and employees. In 1946, the Co-op took another big step. A fire ruined a building next to the Main Store, The Co-op bought the building, reconstructed and modernized it, and moved the Appliance and Hardware Department from the second floor of the Main Store to this new location.

In 1947, a Furniture Department was established on the second floor of the Main Store. In August 1948, the Maynard Consumers Credit Union was opened for business for members of the Co-op. October 1948, new Garage Building to house from 11 to 15 trucks was built. March 18, 1955, a completely renovated and remodeled Main Supermarket was opened. The alleyway between the Main Store and the Appliance Store was replaced by a corridor, with access from both Main Street and the rear parking lot. February 16, 1957 the Waltham Street Store was closed.


There have been 14 general managers - Arvo Rivers serving the longest. His tenure ran from 1932 to 1964. After him was Edward Misserian and presently Robert Bennion. As of January 1969 Clements C. Newman is Resident Manager.

Some services have been discontinued since 1957. Coal and grain some time ago and mild deliveries as of this month, November 1968. Changing times and trends have placed in-town business as compared to shopping centers in a defensive position and the Coop is no exception. But after sixty-six years it is still with us -- a tribute to the tenacity of little people.

I am indebted to the Maynard News - 50th Anniversary Booklet of the United Cooperative Society of Maynard and Mrs. Rachel Aho, longtime head of the office staff of the society.

Read at the meeting of the Maynard Historical Society

B.R. Koski.