What is the best vacation you have ever taken? For me, it is an annual trek in the family truckster up to Washington Island. “North of the tension line” there is not much to do except swim, read and aimlessly amble around the friendly island. It is always so simple: pack up the car, drive a few hours, take a short ferry ride and settle in for a week of waking up late, eating tasty morsels we’ve transported from the Willy Street Co-op, going for an easy run or hike, reading a book, taking naps, sitting by the campfire, and then going to sleep. A week of bliss!  

New interests

This pattern worked for many years...until this past year. Now, my lovely wife gets me up early in the morning before the kids get up to go on a vigorous run. My teenage son wants to kick the soccer ball around for several hours. And my six-year old son wants to canoe and hunt for crawfish in the waning afternoon hours. No more naps or ambling through the woods! Since everyone is developing new interests we’ve also had to scale up the old family truckster with all types of enhancements to accommodate our growing gear. Now crossing the chasm from the tip of Door County to Washington Island is a bit heftier and more complex. Even though the island never really changes, the creativity and energy needed to keep it the best vacation year in and year out is incrementally higher.

One store to two

On a much larger and more complex stage, your friendly Co-op is going through the same challenges of scaling up and crossing a different kind of chasm. We have discussed the scale issue many times in this space by describing our plans for expansion to a second retail location in 2008. In fact, if you visit our website (www.willystreet.coop/Downtown_store) or check out the display in our current retail location, you will see plenty of clever plans management has put into place to scale the Co-op’s operations to a completely new level. Though exciting, crossing the chasm from one retail store to two retail stores is fraught with some very scary obstacles.

Crossing the chasm

“Crossing the Chasm”—a term popularized by Geoffrey Moore who wrote a book of same name, describes the situation whereby firms are initially very successful serving the needs of “enthusiastic” and “visionary” consumers. After this initial success many firms wish to reach out to new markets and oftentimes experience enormous difficulties crossing the chasm to different types of consumers who may be more “pragmatic” and “skeptical” than their initial consumers.

Learning from others

Rest assured the Board and management at Willy Street Co-op are aware of this balancing act and are taking proactive steps to ensure our growth plan is successful. You are fortunate to have a management and staff that are extremely hardworking and visionary, at the same time. Second, the Board has recently taken cues from other co-ops that have successfully crossed the chasm into greater scale and complexity. We are learning from their miscues and achievements and altering how we operate as a governing body. Finally, you as member-owners are doing your part by not only shopping the Co-op but also providing ideas, inspiration and input to make our Downtown locale the best it can be.

Whether it be in work, play, family or friendship, there is a certain seductive nature in the familiar but this longing for the familiar diminishes life’s challenges. Your Willy Street Co-op is up to the challenge and looks forward to your support!