Imagine you’re a member of a large family—a very large family, the size more commonly found four or five generations back—and you’re coming in to the house for dinner. Your family runs the gamut in age, size, appetite and foods preferred and gathering everyone to the table can take awhile. Three people are needed to cook the meal and all of them have different things to do to get everyone happily fed, lots of dishes on the menu and all made from scratch. Now imagine that the house your family lives in has three kitchens, on different floors of the house. Each cook works alone, but together must have the meal ready when the family is and try to satisfy everyone. They shout from floor to floor sometimes, but mostly have to keep track of what the others are doing through prior planning and smart moves. Oh, and there shouldn’t be too many leftovers…and the food can’t run out.

Would you be surprised if you were in this family and you arrived at the table to find every course of a great meal ready to go and with plenty of choices for you? When you walk into either Willy East’s or Willy West’s Deli and Bakery, that’s pretty much what you’re looking at. Since the opening of the Production Kitchen on Main St. and especially since expanding to Middleton, the three humming kitchens of the Co-op have worked nonstop to understand what fits best in which space and how to pull all the resources in the right directions to serve you best. There is never a dull moment, I assure you.

With all that going on and sales ramping upward every year, the number of moving parts grew more and more daunting over the years. Managers already short on time had more staff who needed them for training and support. Decisions got harder to make as more people were in the mix.

Willy Street Co-op had been watching and exchanging ideas for some while with peers who had adopted central program managers to elevate service and product offerings and relieve some of the pressure on personnel managers to plan effectively and manage pricing, promotions and product mix for multiple retail stores. In July of this year, we rolled out the first two positions along those lines—Grocery Category Manager and Prepared Foods Director. I have taken the latter position and write now to re-introduce myself to the Ownership and explain what my aims are for the job as it serves you.

Products
Willy Street Co-op has always been driven first and foremost by the needs and wants of the Ownership. There’s a lot of information coming in from Owners on a constant basis on what the Delis are doing well and what we need to do better, and tracking it can be tough for busy staff on the floor. I’m committed to being the point of exchange for it, so your needs can be put into action as efficiently as possible—and I’ll be the one to look to for clear communication if we can’t put a request into action.

Price
We lead the city in organic and local ingredients in our prepared foods program and this means a big upfront investment from us in your food. We also maintain a generous benefits program as part of our commitment to being a great employer and a benefit to our community. Prices need to be competitive and keep your Co-op profitable and moving forward at the same time. That balancing act will be a big part of my position as well.

Progress
Though the Co-op is and has always been about food, it—like food itself—has always been about a lot more, too. Our Delis and Bakery are no exception. From a symbiotic composting arrangement with our egg vendor (New Century) to ever-increasing efforts to include local products in our prepared foods to a commitment to organics in our program that is the strongest in Madison, we seek new ways to push the standard for you. I’ll be driving initiatives like this that will apply to all of our prepared foods and welcome your ideas and wish lists.

No less importantly, the Willy Street Co-op Bakery also welcomed Woody Stanley into the position of Bakery Manager in July of this year. Woody has been with the Bakery since September 2010 and brings experience from the most dynamic years in the Bakery’s history to bear on his new position. He’s picked up the torch with an easy, friendly confidence that made the management transition a very smooth one for all Bakery and Kitchen staff. Welcome, Woody. It’s the beginning of a great new chapter in our Bakery’s story.

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