Dixon Cooperative Market wins $40K small-business prize

May 22—The Dixon Cooperative Market won $40,000 as the second-place finisher in a nationwide "Small Business Big Wins" contest put on by Barclays US Consumer Bank.

Only two of the 10 finalists were not in the eastern half of the country.

"The guys they sent out for a video shoot said our [business] was definitely the most remote," said Clark Case, the co-op's founder and general manager. He established it in 2005 in Dixon, a town of about 900 people 23 miles south of Taos. The co-op has about 440 members.

A 500-word essay by Case got the co-op in the finals out of 14,000 applicants and a guaranteed $5,000 prize. The winners were determined by the most online public votes, with the co-op generating 15,000 votes over a 10-day period.

Case learned about the Barclays contest from a New Mexico Economic Development Department newsletter and saw the essay deadline was the next day.

"I started the [co-op] with a sign on our library's message board," Case wrote in his essay. "After coercing 60 people to show up to a meeting, we formed a board and started organizing an effort to bring a small grocery store to a town that had little else and was in need of a place that the community could come together to meet, talk, and buy food."

The $40,000 will be added to a $200,000 grant the co-op received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the 2,500-square-foot co-op by 1,000 square feet. This will allow the co-op to upgrade the back stock and receiving area and also increase the customer area, Case said.

"It gives us more security in the feasibility of the project," Case said.

He plans to apply for another grant this summer from the new state Healthy Food Financing Fund.