by Anya Firszt, General Manager
Two years ago this month, an ad hoc opportunities committee was established to discuss and research options for Co-op expansion. A year ago, the committee completed their initial research, and prioritized several options for the Board of Directors to consider and present to the membership. The options were to increase services to current members (off-site kitchen); expand the current floor plan and site (mezzanine addition to increase retail space by 2,000 square feet); and then open a second site. In May, the Co-op was presented an opportunity to be involved in the Monroe Street project, which changed the priorities as presented by the ad hoc committee, and moved the second site project up to the first priority.
It was in July of summer 2004 that the Co-op membership voted to approve the expenditure of funds to open an off-site kitchen facility and a second storefront located in the Monroe Street neighborhood.
In the months since that vote, the Co-op staff has been planning the off-site kitchen and negotiating with the developers of Monroe Commons. At this point, the off-site kitchen is slated to open later this month. The prospect of locating a store on Monroe Street is taking longer to negotiate than previously anticipated. And, it would seem that, based on the original work of the ad hoc committee, the remodel of 1221 Williamson St. has now taken priority once the off-site kitchen has opened, rather than the development of a second site.
To date, we know that the Monroe Street site plan has gone through preliminary approval by city council’s urban design committee. Final approval by city agencies is expected in early 2005. It’s likely that the final cost of the project may prohibit Willy Street Co-op’s ability to locate a store there without risking our core business interest at 1221 Williamson St.
Hence, if we cannot negotiate successfully with Monroe Commons, we will go back to the membership to ask for approval for the expenditure of funds to expand 1221 Williamson St. It might be wise for us to request approval of expenditure funds simultaneously for locating a second site in the greater Madison area in our efforts to explore other options.
The other second site options that have been presented to the Opportunities Committee include:
1. Partnering with Mifflin Street Community Co-op on a site in Metropolitan Place;
2. Partnering with Northside Community Co-op on a site in Sherman Plaza in conjunction with North
side Community Co-op;
3. A site in Middleton that is ru- mored to be under consideration by a national “gourmet” shopping chain; and
4. A site in Union Corners, which could also present opportunities as a site for expansion for the administrative functions of the Willy Street Co-op.
The committee has also explored the purchase of farm land in the adjacent area to provide a farm-to-table relationship with a sustainable tenant farmer; fully develop the home delivery program via web-based purchases or through orders in the store; and the development of a wholesale program for Willy Street Co-op-produced produce and prepared foods.