'Cooperatively Yours'

“Cooperatively Yours: Settlers’ Co-operative in Bruce Crossing, a Finnish-American Story” (museum documentary)

“Co-operatively Yours” (with subtitle: “Settlers’ Co-operative in Bruce Crossing – a Finnish-American Story”), directed by Kristin Lee-Ojaniemi (72 min), released, by the Finnish American-Heritage Center (and Finlandia University) in Hancock, MI on the upper Peninsula of Michigan, makes the case for a clandestinely popular American business model, the coop store (like Costco), which desires memberships for privileges and lower prices.  It would make Nassim Nicholas Taleb (who says “you must start a business” to prove you have “skin in the game’) proud.  Actually, the concept of a mutual life insurance company, owned by policyholders, is distantly related. So would, in theory, a Blue Cross / Blue Shield health plan.

But the business was formed indeed out of the survival priorities of Finnish immigrants who came to the United States, mostly the upper Midwest, in the late 19th Century, through about 1917, as Russia (even pre-Bolshevik) was making inroads into the country, which had been an autonomous “grand duchy” until it became a fully independent republic in 1917.

Settlers found that companies would not sell to them if they unionized or protested, so they formed their own separate world as a cooperative.  They did sell “shared” which eventually became just memberships.  They started with a grocery and household goods store at the intersection of US 45 and SR 28 on the western UP, a bit west of Houghton, at Bruce Crossing.

They would build other meeting facilities, even for plays and music, as they dealt with political controversies over the years, including some attempted “infiltration” by communism, and some controversies of who could be allowed to perform in their facilities. Sounds familiar? (Hint: Internet bannings.)

The store (“Settlers’ Co-op) survives today and now includes high-tech gear.

Curiously, the business model even reminds me of a dilemma in content creation on social media, where independent creators are being shunned now.  A “cooperative” business model after some merging may be in order.

When I lived in Minnesota (1997-2003) I believe I found some Finnish owned businesses around the iron range and along I-35 north toward Duluth.

A bought the CD ($10) at an in person visit July 13 to the Finnish-American Heritage Association in Ashtabula, Ohio.   I could not find it on Amazon but included a similar book. I also could not find a trailer.


Name: “Co-operatively Yours”

Director, writer:Kristin Lee Ojaniemi

Released: 2017

Format: 1.85:1

When and how viewed:DVD purchase at a heritage center in Ohio (above)


Rating: NA

Companies:     Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, MI

(Originally posted: Sunday, July 14, 2019 at 4:30 PM EDT)