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Celebrating eight and a half decades of Southland Co-op

Southland Co-op has been an anchor in the community for 85 years and continues to evolve and grow so they are viable for many years to come.

ASSINIBOIA — Feb. 24, 1929, a charter was filed, and accepted for Assiniboia Co-op. Commodities included petroleum, sundry and small fuel tanks which were sold from a warehouse on Railway Avenue.

Southland Co-operative has grown and evolved in the past eight and half decades now featuring a food store, home centre, Ag division, petroleum, cardlock, gas bar and convenience store and liquor store in Assiniboia. Coronach branch of Southland Co-op includes a food store, service centre and cardlock, while Gravelbourg location includes a food store and cardlock.  Lafleche location offers a food store and service centre while Mossbank has a service centre and Willow Bunch a keylock. All serve customers and members under the Southland Co-op banner.

Marie Magnuson, Southland Co-op, Member Relations Officer, says that Southland Co-op employs 160 people in their locations. This includes full time, part time and student employees.

Southland Co-op has expanded over the years to accommodate the growing needs of the communities they serve. The Assiniboia Co-op added hardware in 1944 to their initial sales of petroleum, sundry and small fuel tanks. In 1950, lumber was added. 1952 saw the addition of a shopping centre that included a food store along with household hardware, small appliances and tools. The Assiniboia Service Station opened and in 1969 a pharmacy department was added.

The familiar Co-op slogan, ‘You’re at home here’, was encompassed long before it became an official Co-op marketing tagline. Former Assiniboia residents say they remember the large windows in the food store, where kids sat while their parents shopped, or seniors sat to observe the hustle and bustle of the town’s Main Street. Many also recall the gathering place for young and old alike in the old coffee shop and diner downstairs in the old food store location. Numerous teens that grew up in Assiniboia reflect fondly on their first job opportunity with Assiniboia’s Co-op.

A new food store was built in 1996 in Assiniboia, along with a gas bar and convenience store which opened in 2000. The Agro Centre in Assiniboia opened in 2008 and the Home Centre in 2012, providing each commodity a larger space, allowing the Southland Co-op members an expansion of products and services. The Assiniboia Liquor Store opened in 2023.

“When Assiniboia Co-op amalgamated with Gravelbourg Co-op in 1999, the name was changed to Southland Co-op to reflect the expanded trading area. Southland then merged with Mossbank in 2003, with Coronach in 2017 and with Lafleche in 2017,” adds Magnuson.

Branch locations have been renovated to provide a better shopping experience that include cardlock locations in Assiniboia, Coronach and Gravelbourg to provide 24/7/365 fuel.access.

Magnuson also notes that Southland Co-op has made notable community sponsorships and is part of community initiatives, some of which include: Gravelbourg Co-Cathedral Belfry project, Mossbank Rink Project, Willow Bunch Swimming Pool project, Mossbank Ball Diamonds project, Golden South Daycare project, Jean Louis Legare Regional Park Shower house project (Willow Bunch) as well as Assiniboia Arts Council sponsorship.

Southland Co-op employees are dedicated to the communities they live in and work in, serving as volunteers on a number of boards, events, activities and sports organizations, showcasing their business mandate of giving back to the community.

Southland Co-op Centre is the pride of the board, Assiniboia residents and members who know their support of the organization played a hand in the completion and naming rights of this state-of-the-art facility.

“Southland Co-op kicked off a year long celebration the week of Feb. 20-24, with specials and a draw at every location, along with a day to enjoy free cake and coffee. Stay tuned for more specials and events throughout the year.”

The Feb. 16 issue of the Assiniboia Times included a multiple page timeline, along with photos, of the Southland Co-op over the years and includes photos of locations and location managers and board.

Co-ops in Saskatchewan were born out of collaborative efforts to help people improve their livelihoods through organization of people who share the same needs. A cooperative is an association of persons into an organization that is owned and controlled by the people to meet their common economic goals through a jointly owned and democratic controlled business enterprise.

Co-op memberships allow voting rights in the organization and potential dividends to be paid each year, according to board decisions on the financial success of the past year.

Co-ops in the province have continued to evolve and sustain their business through varying economic times. Southland Co-op, along with other Co-ops in the province, were applauded for their remarkable efforts in delivering goods and services safely and continuously throughout the worldwide pandemic.

Southland Co-op has been an anchor of the community for 85 years and continues to evolve so that they are viable for the communities they serve for many years to come.