Menomonie Co-op, Brewery Nonic Among Top Winners of State Innovation Contest

competition highlights creativity in face of COVID-19

Tom Giffey

Menomonie Market Food Co-op (Submitted photo)
Menomonie Market Food Co-op (Submitted photo)

Two Menomonie businesses are among a handful of top winners in a statewide contest for businesses that have addressed the COVID-19 pandemic in creative ways.

Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Brewery Nonic placed atop their size divisions in the We’re All Innovating Contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. According to a media release from Gov. Tony Evers, the contest was created “to recognize and promote the creative ways startups and small businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Menomonie Market Co-op was the winner in the 21-50 employee division of the Technology Innovation to Address COVID-19 Impacts on Businesses category. The co-op was singled out for creating an online ordering platform to help connect customers to locally produced food.

Wisconsin is known for its can-do spirit and its big ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired businesses to find new ways fight the virus, operate their businesses, and meet the needs of our community. After looking at these winning projects, I’m truly in awe of these folks’ ingenuity, imagination, and creativity.

GOV. TONY EVERS

“Our food co-op exists to create wealth for our owners and our local community,” said Crystal Halvorson, the co-op’s general manager. “When we were weighing whether or not to invest in building an eCommerce solution earlier this year, it felt risky to use that money for a project outside of our planned budget. Ultimately, we knew we had to make the leap to keep our shoppers safe and to continue supporting our local farmers and producers, so it’s awesome to see the state give money to locally owned businesses like ours to help with that unexpected cost.”

Creating an outdoor seating area was one of Brewery Nonic's responses to the pandemic. (Submitted photo)
Creating an outdoor seating area was one of Brewery Nonic's responses to the pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Meanwhile, Brewery Nonic, a Menomonie craft brewery founded in 2018, was chosen as one of three winners with fewer than five employees in the Service and Business Operation Innovation to Respond to COVID-19 Disruption category. To weather the pandemic, the brewery got creative by purchasing a food trailer, creating outdoor seating, and developing a “guest kitchen” where community members – including members of Hmong and Peruvian families and UW-Stout students – could learn a trade.

“Wisconsin is known for its can-do spirit and its big ideas,” Evers said in a press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired businesses to find new ways fight the virus, operate their businesses, and meet the needs of our community. After looking at these winning projects, I’m truly in awe of these folks’ ingenuity, imagination, and creativity.”

Overall, 231 winners were chosen statewide out of entries from 1,226 businesses. All the winners will share $3 million in grants to help losses suffered because of the pandemic. The funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Other winners from the Chippewa Valley include Volume One of Eau Claire, Sweet Complete of Augusta (also known as the Augusta Bakery), Hmong Noodle Wrap of Eau Claire, Golden Calf Co. of Bloomer, and SMARTcare Software of Eau Claire.

Learn more about the contest and its winners at wedc.org/we-are-all-innovating-contest-winners.