by Buck Rhyme, WSGC Board Member
If I asked you about your annual medical or dental check-up, you would probably understand what I was talking about. Many times check-ups of this nature are preventative. The professionals involved are just checking to see that your systems are healthy and in good working order. Willy Street Co-op just had its version of annual check-up, and the results are contained in the recent 2004 Annual Report that was recently distributed to all members. Here are a few highlights.
The life blood of any organization is its financial condition. By all accounts, and most importantly those of our outside financial auditors, the Co-op is in sound financial condition. We have ample cash reserves ($1M+) in the bank to manage our high volume of accounts payable and fund a substantial portion of the newly-completed off-site kitchen project. We have continued our commitment to paying all entry-level workers the Dane County Living Wage as well as implemented a performance incentive plan for managers to ensure that their wages remain competitive. Our overall debt level, while a big number in real terms, $1,939, 719, is less than 50% of our overall assets. The bottom line is that we are well positioned for the expansion challenges ahead.
There is ample evidence that our cooperative heart is beating strong and true to the seven principles posted on the store wall. We honored our commitment to cooperate with other co-ops by providing technical assistance to the Mifflin Street Co-op, the Northside Co-op and helped the People’s Food Co-op in Lacrosse move into its new location. As part of our concern for community, we sponsored 10 community events as well as our perennial favorites, Breakfast at Night, Farmer Appreciation Dinner, and Member Appreciation Dinner. We also supported the Eastside Farmers’ Market and purchased goods and services from nearly 500 vendors to help ensure that members have access to high quality produce. As one method of educating members, we offered over 20 different classes in our Community Room, ranging from basic composting to belly dancing.
The pace of change and overall activity is picking up at the Co-op and so it would be fair to say the pressure is rising. Annual sales rose by over 15%, we enrolled 3,335 new members, and served an average of 1,463 customers per day during 364 days of operation. To relieve some of the pressure created by growing demand, the off-site kitchen will increase our deli production and storage capability. The news is not all positive on this front, however.
As business continues to grow, parking spaces will be at an even greater premium in 2005, causing continued high levels of blood pressure for some members. All this points to the need for expansion to a second site to better serve the needs of our growing membership.
After reading the Annual Report, it is easy to issue the Co-op a clean bill of health. Our vital systems are functioning well and should ensure success in meeting the challenges of growth and expansion that lie ahead. Hopefully, our check up will look as positive again next year.