THE READER
August 2004

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GM Report

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Slow Food Fast

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Co-op Taking Off!

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GM Report
Anya Firszt
General Manager


A majority of voting members of Willy Street Co-op approved the opening of a second store and an off-site kitchen. The near eastside Madison grocery co-op has been discussing the possibility of opening another store on Monroe Street with Neighborhood Partners, the current developers of the former Ken Kopp’s site. No site has been selected yet for the off-site kitchen. 1367 members voted to approve both projects, 94 members approved the off-site kitchen only and 31 approved of neither project.


Monroe Street Grocery Co-op
The Monroe Street Grocery Co-op had been pursuing the opening of a co-op at the same location for three years, but Neighborhood Partners, who took over the property last year, had been reluctant to lease the space to a business with no experience in running a grocery store. The MSGC Board of Directors had asked Willy Street Co-op to consider the site for a second location, and supported the proposal.


Public Forum August 5th

We can’t move much farther on the second store project until we hear if Neighborhood Partners accepts our bid for leasing the property. The developers plan to hold a public forum on Thursday, August 5th so that residents can share their comments—please let them know what you’d like to go into the old Ken Kopp’s space!


Off-Site Kitchen

The off-site kitchen will enable Willy Street Co-op to more consistently provide bakery and deli products, and to better serve its members and community. For example, Willy Street Co-op has contacted Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch, which seeks to provide school kids with fresh, nutritious, local and sustainably grown food, to offer it space for food preparation. The kitchen will also be offered to other local grocery co-ops that could use such a facility.


New Jobs
Both of these projects will create jobs that pay the Dane County Living Wage and have great benefits. The second store is slated to open in spring of 2006; the off-site kitchen should open this October or November.

The overwhelming vote of the membership to authorize management to proceed with plans to open an off-site kitchen and open a second location on Monroe Street is pretty cool. The vote confirms that this is a project the membership wants and that it supports our efforts to negotiate a lease or purchase agreement with the Neighborhood Partners and to open an off-site kitchen facility.


Questions and Answers

There are hundreds of questions to be asked and answered in the coming weeks and months about the proposals for the second site and development of the off-site kitchen. An example of the feedback that we’re getting is: “What impact would a second location on Monroe Street have on Regent Market Co-op and Mifflin Street Community Cooperative?”
Willy Street Co-op is not just an ordinary grocery store thinking to locate a second site in the Monroe Street neighborhood. In the current fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2003), the Co-op is budgeted to sell $11.8 million in groceries, purchase $7.6 million dollars worth of product (COGS), pay $2 million in personnel expenses, and employ 118 staff; we have actively done a whole lot more than just run a retail grocery storefront. We are concerned what impact we would have on the other retail co-ops in Madison and are committed to working together and communicating openly about opportunities to grow the cooperative presence in this region.

We have supported the opening of two cooperatives in the region-Northside Community Co-op in Madison and Harvest Co-op in Barneveld-and supported the reorganization of Basics, a natural foods store located in Janesville, from a privately owned and operated business to a cooperatively owned business.

WSGC has included Mifflin Street, Northside Community, Regent Market, and Monroe Street Co-op board members in our expansion planning work and freely shared the materials generated to support the decision to locate a second site on Monroe Street. WSGC sponsored “Co-op 101,” a UW mini-course in how to start a cooperative.

In the last year, WSGC has shared with Mifflin and Regent co-ops any training materials we have on file, our personnel manual, and staff (labor hours) time to support and improve any aspect of their operation that they requested support in. WSGC sponsored sending a person from each of the four Madison retail co-ops to attend the annual cooperative conference CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) in Minneapolis in June.

WSGC has contributed to the community nearly $22k in donations-from the sponsorship to the Wil-Mar pie fundraiser to the in-kind hosting of the girl scout troops; WSGC has been an active player in the community. And, regardless of whether a second site is opened or not, WSGC will continue to participate is these neighborhood programs.

What are the ways that WSGC can support the local co-ops if a second WSGC is located in the Monroe Street neighborhood? Regent Market Co-op could be the supplier for the new site meat counter, common dock deliveries could be utilized to decrease charges or increase discounts, and employee educational training workshops can be scheduled to support training of staff for any co-op.

If Trader Joe’s is the organization that the Neighborhood Partners chooses to partner with and it locates a store on Monroe Street, the future of many (co-op) stores in that area would be impacted-the sale of specialty groceries at Orange Tree Imports would be hurt, wine and beer sales at Barriques would be hurt, bulk coffee sales on Monroe Street would be hurt, groceries sales at Regent Market would be hurt, etc. I find a greater core value to be co-ops working together and finding/creating synergies to strengthen the co-op sector, not competing against one another.

The next steps are to secure member loans within the Monroe Street neighborhood and current WSGC members, listen to the results of the Neighborhood Partners community meeting on the WSGC vs. Trader Joe’s issue (unfortunately on August 5th, the same day as our Annual Membership Meeting)... and, oh yes, the Neighborhood Partners deciding to partner with WSGC because we have a superior proposal to Trader Joe’s!


Ice Cream Social a Success

Our Ice Cream Social on Saturday, July 10th raised $385 for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. Thanks to The Chocolate Shoppe for very generously donating the ice cream and supplies!


Survey Results
Thanks to everyone who completed a survey! We will respond to the results in our September issue. The winners of the 10 $100 gift cards are Jonathan Hunter, Joel Sommers, Diane Remeika, Suzy Grindrod, Beverly Jenkins, Arthur Thexton, Dee Crawford, Jean Colvin, Dawn Sillars and Cynthia White.


Six-Pack Rings Up for Grabs
The Co-op has a whole bunch of plastic six-pack rings that it doesn’t need —if you want them, you can have them! Please call 608-251-6776 and ask for Matt Filipiak.