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Rhineland Consumers' Co-operative - Altona.
Credit: D. K. Friesen
Believing co-operation played an important role in the community, a number of interested persons invested five dollars each to start the Altona Co-operative store in 1937. This group was able to secure a $600 loan to purchase inventory and before the end of June 1937 opened a store on the former premises of Jacob P. Harder.
The Altona Co-op store experienced many of the problems com mon to consumer co-operative stores in other parts of Manitoba, such as shortage of working capital and the hostility of private enterprise. The concept of a consumer owned retail store was entirely foreign to the Altona area and was a direct challenge to private merchants. Threatened by this new competition, town merchants tried to undermine the co operative concept through ridicule and distortion. 25
Lacking capital and the membership to insure a sufficient volume of business, the store found it difficult to effect significant savings for its membership. Careful management by D. K. Friesen (president), P. 1. Friesen (secretary), D. H. Loewen (vice-president), and Jacob C. Sawatsky (manager), however, produced steady progress. By 1940 the store had 446 members and merchandise sales of $58,749.36.26 The success of this store persuaded additional townspeople to get further involved in the co-operative movement and initiated greater interaction between Rhineland's rural and town populations. This co-operation became instrumental in the formation of credit union societies.
The advent of the depression and the collapse of both the Bergthaler and Sommerfelder Waisenamts had created a serious short-