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Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference 2005 Staff Reflections, Part II
by Anya Firszt, General Manager
The opening of the off-site kitchen is a milestone for the Co-op—it is the first of three major steps or phases in the priorities established to address sales growth at 1221. The membership voted approval last July of the expenditure of funds to build the kitchen and locate a store on the near west side. The kitchen is built; the staff is fully immersed in the newness of the space, settling into a routine, and has fully embraced the HACCP plan written for the production facility.
I vaguely remember when the Co-op had no deli counter, and when the first kitchen and service case were installed at 1202—it was located at the back of the 1500 square foot space. The prep area was the passage way between the grocery back room ramp and the produce prep area and the conveyor belt. The entire production area included a four-burner range, a counter top that measured 22” x 5’, a backstock storage cooler space consisting of one 3-foot shelf in the same cooler that housed backstock produce, and maybe a meat slicer. Wow—fun to be part of the continued growth and success of the Co-op.
The opening of a cooperatively owned and managed storefront on Monroe Street was the other part of the membership vote last summer—the Co-op has worked hard in the last ten months to gain the partnering position with Monroe Partners to no avail.
It is no surprise to me that the neighborhood supports the re-opening of a neighborhood grocery in the vacated Ken Kopp’s site. The neighborhood eloquently voiced their collective support and even praise of the Monroe Commons project at the March 15 Common Council meeting. The City of Madison Common Council approved that night the site plan presented by the Monroe Partners, and accepted the recommendation by the Board of Estimates to allocate $2.3 million of TIF monies to the developers to support their efforts to build.
It was my sincere hope that the award of TIF monies to this project would allow the developers to reduce the lease rate of the retail space to an amount that was (in my opinion) reasonable and would not place at risk the current operation. That dream scenario has not come to pass—the developers have reported to me that the $2.3 million shall be applied to the overall (brick and mortar) project costs—which is a plus for the residential condominium buyers—they can expect that the TIF monies will reduce the per unit price because it ain’t going to the retail storefront.
I have not been able to negotiate a lease or purchase price with the developers for the site. Monroe Commons was an ideal site to locate a storefront. It is not, however, the only site or neighborhood in which we could thrive in the metropolitan area.
The fourth season of the Tuesday Eastside Farmers’ Market opening day is Tuesday, May 3 beginning at 4:00pm, ending at 7:00 pm. The Co-op has contracted with 22 farmers for the season—basically filling the available space on 201 S. Ingersol—one block off Williamson Street. The season lasts through Tuesday, October 11.
Lynn Olson, WSGC Member Services Manager and Market Manager, reports that on opening day items available will include meat (beef, pork, and elk), eggs, honey, baked goods, and (weather pending) produce vendors may have lettuces, radishes, scallions, and salad onions, but count on plenty of perennial and seedling selection.
In order to promote better access to locally-grown, sustainable foods, Willy Street Co-op has committed to purchase the QUEST card handheld transmitter. QUEST users will be able to purchase from participating vendors of the food share program.
The Co-op is thrilled to be part of the movement to redevelop the existing market site into more than just a gravel lot with a 10’ x 16’ sod pad for a lawn. The new central park district development is becoming a reality with the commitment from the City to help cost share with the relocation of the rail as long as the balance of funds are raised from private/non-City sources. In the meantime, we can enjoy the newly-created green space (mountain of dirt) and the elimination of the snow fencing.
The Northside Community Co-op has been successfully organized the new Sunday morning farmers market serving the northside community. The Northside Farmers’ Market (NFM) is to be located at the spacious Sherman Plaza (Northport and Sherman Ave. intersection) across from Warner Park beginning in June. The market hours are Sunday 8:00am–1:00 pm, and will include an abundant selection of locally grown farmer products.
The location of the Northside Farmers’ Market is in the same plaza that the Northside Community Co-op would like to open a retail storefront.
Get ready for the much needed resurfacing and repainting of the 1221 parking lot. After discussion among the managers, we have decided not to close the store for this work. But we are developing an incentive plan to offer you to shop early and not during the work. We will communicate the dates of inconvenience as soon as we schedule the work with the contractor.