Slide show commemorating the life of Bill Gessner.

If you have a remembrance of Bill that you would like to share, add a comment to the Welcome to Gessnerville blog page.

Please consider contributing to the Bill Gessner Memorial in support of:

  • Startup food co-ops
  • Cooperative growth and development
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • International Cooperative Principles
Bill Gessner Memorial Celebration, May 18, 2019
Bill Gessner’s pre-celebration gathering at his home in Minneapolis.
Bill Gessner’s Cooperative Hall of Fame induction video. May 2012, National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
Bill Gessner singing Decorative Pillows.


Bill started writing songs when he was about 30 and was inspired by the songwriting traditions of folk, country, and the musical theater. Along with his early fascination with the concept of the singing cowboy, his love of music and songwriting was fueled by the work of a wide and diverse range of songwriters including Gene Autry, Chuck Berry, Boudeleaux and Felice Bryant, A.P. Carter, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Steve Goodman, Woody Guthrie, Bob McDill, Johnny Mercer, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Mickey Newbury, Buck Owens, Utah Phillips, John Prine, Malvina Reynolds, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Ernest Tubb, Loudon Wainwright III, and Cindy Walker.

Bill’s songs aim to touch the listener with humor and heart, spirit and inspiration. He was attracted to singable melodies that are memorable in their simplicity. His goal as a songwriter was to be open and receptive to the world that he lives in and to pursue songwriting as a spiritual practice.

Welcome to Gessnerville was Bill’s first full-length recording, and is produced by Peter Ostroushko, who also plays mandolin and fiddle on a number of the songs. The all-star cast of musicians also includes Chris Rosser, Dan Newton, Rich Dworsky, Diane Tremaine, Kevin Barnes, Prudence Johnson (harmony vocals), and Bob Douglas (harmony vocals).

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I like that town, and I can’t wait to go back!”? Well that’s Gessnerville. I just hope that it keeps growing. Behind every song is a door into another home in town, with another interesting situation. You can sing a Gessnerville song, and you can visit, but you could not create another place like it, and you’d be crazy to try. Think about another cartoonist copying Snoopy or Charlie Brown, or another author rhyming like “The Cat In The Hat.” Some things can’t be copied. That is true uniqueness. A singer can copy Woody Guthrie, or steal a lick from Louis Armstrong, or Jelly Roll Morton, or Leadbelly, or Bob Dylan, but no one can copy Bill Gessner. Not possible! So I’m for letting Bill do his thing. Sometimes I wonder what “his thing” is, and maybe he does too, but I know that I can’t wait to go back to Gessnerville and really relax. —– Charlie Maguire, www.charliemaguire.com



Bill Gessner’s involvement in the food cooperative community has spanned 41 years and he is credited with having helped transform the community from a hodgepodge of individual stores into an integrated, values-driven national community of consumer-owned retail groceries that has changed the way America thinks about food. His commitment to developing people, organizations and systems is evident in his record of achievement. He recognized the need for co-ops to share information about operations and best practices and helped found the Cooperative Grocers Information Network (CGIN). He pioneered the concept of establishing food co-op consulting teams by bringing that focus to several cooperative development organizations before becoming a founding member of the CDS Consulting Cooperative. His work has resulted in the creation of many educational and measurement tools and he was instrumental in the creation of the development model which is at the heart of today’s new food co-op development. Recognizing the power of networking and collaboration, he helped establish a Midwestern regional Cooperative Grocers Association to enable that interaction to occur and he was a driving force behind the creation of the National Cooperative Grocers Association.