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Setting a Standard

I’ve had several opportunities this summer to learn more about how our Willy Street Co-op compares to other retail grocery cooperatives and conventional grocery stores. First, I attended the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) Conference in La Crosse. During my travels this summer I also visited two other co-ops. It was great to not only support other co-ops but to understand more about how co-ops are similar and different. Finally, while on vacation in Colorado, I was compelled to shop at a conventional grocery store because we didn’t have access to a co-op. Since the big chains are getting on the organic bandwagon, I was particularly intrigued and curious about the new focus on organic and “natural” foods in the store where I shopped. What I learned was that while some things have changed (more organic produce and dairy items), much has stayed the same (out-of-date packaged goods and an overabundance of surreally humongous conventional produce) in the conventional grocery store.

This informal research increased my understanding about the unique advantages of not only the cooperative store in general, but specifically Willy Street Co-op. I found we have much to be proud of. Here are just a few:

Diverse product offerings
WSGC is truly a one-stop shopping experience for my family. As an avid cook and working mother of two children under the age of six, I’m so appreciative that our Co-op is a place where I can find local organic fruits and veggies, local yogurt and ground beef, and my favorite dark chocolate for baking. I’m equally grateful for the selection in our awesome Seafood Center and amazing hot foods when I decide I don’t want to make my own lunch during busy weekdays.

Professional and authentic staff
I love that I never have to wait in a check-out line. The lines are always short and the Front End staff is efficient. I also love that while the Front End staff members are professional and courteous, they also seem comfortable being themselves at work. I don’t get as many false smiles or harried looks when I’m checking out. My impression is that people who work here feel more free to express themselves. This authenticity is one of the things that what makes shopping at a co-op both unique and memorable.

Healthful prepared foods
Whether I’m picking up a soup for lunch, ordering a wrap tray for a party or buying hummus for my kids, I know that our prepared foods will not only taste good but will be as healthy, if not healthier than anything coming out of my own kitchen. Not necessarily true when I shopped at the conventional grocery store.

Connection between consumption and
contributing to a sustainable world

I’ve learned much about how food gets from the farm to my family’s table simply by being a member of the Co-op. This happens not only when I attend a special event but when I talk to other members or read an interesting Reader article. The Co-op does a great job of educating me about how my shopping and eating choices affect not only my local community but the environment and the health of our planet.

Community leadership
Whether we are pouring beer at the La Fête de Marquette, serving on the Board for the Greater Williamson Street Business Association, or being a sponsor of the Food for Thought Festival, the Co-op takes an active and meaningful role in the neighborhood. We are visible in the places that count and don’t simply play lip service to being involved, but actually play a leadership role in the issues that matter to us.

We are doing many things right as a co-op
I know that I am somewhat biased, but I believe we are setting a standard for other retail cooperatives around the United States and for conventional grocery stores in the Madison area. The success of our business model, the expertise of our managers, and the leadership that we demonstrate in the community are worth celebrating and duplicating. I look forward to our extending the same values of professionalism, authenticity, food ethics, and community leadership to the Downtown store.


The Co-op needs devoted members to serve on the Board of Directors. Every year there are three eligible seats that need to be filled. Are you the person that could fill one of those seats? The Co-op is growing and you have an opportunity to be a major component of the process. As the Owner Relations Committee Chair for 2007, I would like to invite Co-op members to consider the qualifications and responsibilities listed below. If you have any questions about the potential time commitment, process, or any aspect of the Board of directors don’t hesitate to leave your name with me at Customer Service, and I will call you for a conversation (off the clock please!). I look forward to the prospect of speaking with you.


  • Be a WSGC member-owner.
  • Care about needs of our near East-side neighborhood, our Co-op members and Co-op staff.
  • Have an interest in sustainable agriculture, food, and health issues.
  • Have an interest in learning about cooperative business and community development.
  • Candidates with experience in two or more of the following areas are strongly encouraged to run: business finance and accounting (retail or wholesale); finance—budget analysis, major financial decisions; law—especially litigation and bylaws experience; personnel management; cooperative movement and philosophy; grocery industry; marketing; planning, meeting facilitation, contract negotiation.


  • Commit to a three-year term.
  • Attend quarterly and special meetings, the Annual Membership Meeting, our yearly training and the yearly planning retreat.
  • Use critical thinking and come prepared for efficient, productive discussions.
  • Serve on at least one Board committee.
  • Educate yourself and other Board members on issues related to our business and mission.

Nominations/election process

All nominees must answer the following questions:

    1. What skills and experience do you bring to the Board? (100 words maximum)
    2. What motivated you to run for a seat on the Board? (100 words maximum)
    3. Give an example of something that you feel the Co-op could do better, and briefly describe how you might address it as a Board Member. (150 words maximum)
    4. Which of the seven co-op principles resonate with you right now and why? (125 words maximum)

Get your responses and a photo to us before August 9th, 2007 or at the Annual Membership Meeting. All nominees will be introduced to the membership at this time. If you wish to address the membership, that would be great! Your response to the above questions will be printed in the September issue of the Reader. Submissions that go over the stated word count will be edited for space. However, full comments will be placed on our website at www.willystreet.coop. Please include your address, telephone number and member number. We will verify receipt of your letter. Send nominations to:

Owner Relations Committee
Attn: Tamara Urich-Rintz
c/o Willy Street Co-op
1221 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703
OR email t.urich@willystreet.coop
Any questions, contact Tamara Urich-Rintz, Owner Relations Chair.