“The Cooperative opens doors in many areas that will result in growth opportunities. The Cooperative puts me in touch with people who want to resolve important issues facing our industry, particularly those associated with purchasing, financial planning, expansion and exit strategies.”

-Rick Gowell, Gowell’s Store, Inc., Litchfield

“I see this Cooperative as the future of independents. Working closely with them to identify areas of need and possibilities for growth in sales and profit. And developing the independent into better trainers and good business people. Planning their future around cutting edge strategies, strengthening their respective opportunities to compete in an ever-changing market place. Securing the best for their families and employees. And making the independent the long-term business model for the future.”

-Stephen Phair, Buddies IGA, Oakland

“This Cooperative is in its infancy with tremendous potential to help retailers become more viable. I am excited to be part of it and look forward to where it will take us. Working through the Cooperative we are able to reach out to wholesalers as a group and ask how we can grow our businesses together.”

-Ron Picard, Friends and Family Market, Ellsworth Falls

“The Cooperative is Maine and New England’s best opportunity to create a functioning, farm-to-family food system that will address food security, stabilize capital in the agriculture sector, and offer jobs and investment opportunities for the region’s farmers, value-added food craftspeople, distributors, and independent grocery store operators. The Cooperative’s unique experience, expertise, and capacity to build sustainable relationships between partners throughout Maine and New England’s food system gives me hope that, sooner rather than later, we will achieve the ambitious dream of Mainers feeding Mainers with fresh, local, affordable food and agricultural products.”

-Nate Rudy, Executive Director, Waterville Creates!

“I’ve never met anyone who knew more about their industry than Mark Sprackland. Building the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative is a creative and critical way to put that knowledge to work for the independent business people who often get undercut by the big box stores. Mark knows how to keep independent retailers viable, profitable, and maximize high quality operations, and that keeps our communities vibrant.”

-Rob Brown, Director of Business Ownership Solutions at the Cooperative Development Institute

“In 2011, CEI began a specialty lending program called the Healthy Food Finance Initiative, supporting Maine’s independent grocers and making connections to Maine’s food producers. Mark Sprackland and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative quickly became key go-to resources. Mark brings significant sector expertise to the table to strengthen these critical community assets. CEI is proud to support the cooperative and the work it does to sustain vibrant, robust grocers across the region.”

-Daniel Wallace, Program Developer, Sustainable Agriculture, CEI

“The Cooperative Fund of New England regards the expertise and experience that the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative has within the retail grocery market as a critical factor in our ability to finance the loan with the Island Employee Cooperative. The professionalism and knowledge that Mark exhibited during the entire process was exceptional and we would recommend any independent retailer looking for business management and due diligence assistance in converting to a cooperative to seek out the services of the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative. You will be very pleased that you did!”

-Gloria LaBrecque, Northeast Loan & Outreach Officer, Cooperative Fund of New England

“Mark Sprackland and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative bring over 35 years of experience and leadership in the grocery industry to the shared vision with Grow L+A.

The synergy between a Grocery Marketplace, Learning Center, food hub, and medically integrated health and wellness center in Bates Mill No. 5 is part of what develops a local and regional destination at the heart of Maine’s second largest metro area. This development provides healthy food accessibility and education in an area where it is most needed.

We understand providing technical training and business development assistance to aspiring independent grocers are a high priority and central to establishing a sustainable regional food system. Grow L+A’s partnership with Mark and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative is inspiring, practical, and helps our communities thrive.”

-Peter Flanders | Grow L+A Board President

“The Island Employee Cooperative has benefitted tremendously by working with and being a member of the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative. Mark Sprackland’s decades of experience in the grocery industry gave us the confidence to know we could take a leap of faith and buy these businesses, and that he could help us succeed. Mark is helping us make good decisions, and our stores are more profitable and efficient as a result.”

-Alan White, President, The Island Employee Cooperative