Many of you have called over the last several months asking if/when we will offer Owner Bonds in support of Willy Street Co-op’s expansion. I am pleased to announce the January 15th (the date on this had changed please read the General Manager's Letter) launch of the Owner Bond Drive with the goal of borrowing $600,000. Willy Street Co-op has a long history of issuing bonds to support our growth, dating back to the opening of our first location in 1974. We last held a bond drive in 1999 as part of our expansion to 1221 Williamson Street. Through strong member support we successfully raised $443,000.

For those that have not participated in prior bond drives, here is the quick gist. Willy Street Co-op Fair Share equity owners lend the Co-op money. Willy Street Co-op issues an IOU (a.k.a. bond) to each lender which pays a stated rate of interest and plans to return the original loan amount at maturity.

Why purchase a bond?

It is important to the Co-op to have as many Fair Share equity owners as possible purchase a bond, whether it is for $200 or $12,000. Each bond is a signal of support and a direct way to help the expansion succeed. Everyone will have their own reason for wanting to provide financial support. Some people will look forward to the more convenient downtown location. Others will savor the Eastside store as the stress on its operations is relieved. And others may just be proud to have stood by the Co-op as it has grown over the years. I am personally excited about the Downtown store’s energy efficient features, some of which will cost more up front but will pay back with lower operational costs and reduced environmental impact.

How do we intend to use the $600,000?

In conjunction with planning for the Co-op’s expanded operations, we have also been planning a fiscally responsible approach intended to protect the Co-op’s financial health well into the future. Our approach includes:

  1. Using the money raised from the Co-op’s Fair Share equity owners as the cash portion of the Downtown store’s financing.
  2. Saving the Co-op’s current cash reserves for operating support and contingency.
  3. Reducing our bank debt once Eastside and Downtown operations are performing as planned. By paying down more expensive bank debt, we will keep interest payments within our community and free up cash for other member priorities.

What Owner Bonds are available?

The Owner Bonds are set up as Zero Coupon bonds, which is a simplified bond structure that pays all the interest at maturity. For example, if you purchase a $200 bond, the Co-op will pay you back either $230 after three years or $275 after six years, depending on which term you choose.

Though the purchase of Owner Bonds should be considered a sign of support, we have decided to offer interest rates that exceed what other grocery cooperatives have offered their membership and exceed some options in the marketplace. We chose higher interest rates to recognize the importance of our owners to the further growth of the Co-op.
It is also important to note that all Owner Bonds are unsecured and non-transferable.

Bond A

For each $200 that you lend the Co-op, we will pay you $230 at the end of three years.
Details:

  • Type: Zero Coupon
  • Maturity: 3 Years
  • Interest rate: 4.769%
  • Interest compounded: Annually
  • Minimum purchase amount: $200

Bond B

For each $200 that you lend the Co-op, we will pay you at $275 at the end of six years.
Details:

  • Type: Zero Coupon
  • Maturity: 6 Years
  • Interest rate: 5.451%
  • Interest compounded: Annually
  • Minimum purchase amount: $200

Optional Features

  • All bondholders can opt to receive interest earned in the form of a store credit (as opposed to a check).
  • Bondholders purchasing more than $2,000 may choose to receive annual interest payments.

Who is eligible to purchase Owner Bonds?

To purchase a bond you have to be a resident of the State of Wisconsin at the time of purchase. You also need to be a paid-in-full Fair Share equity owner. If you are not a paid-in-full equity owner, please pay off the balance of your Fair Share next time you are in the store.

How can you get additional information?

We understand that you probably desire substantially more information before making a decision. Therefore, the following sources of information are available.

    1. To ask questions, request materials, or purchase a bond, call Customer Service (251-0884) or email bonds@willystreet.coop.
  1. A series of information sessions will be hosted in the Community Room by Board members. Willy Street Co-op snacks will be provided. While an RSVP is requested for planning purposes, feel free to drop-in. The information sessions will be held on the following dates:
    • Sunday, January 20th, 11:00am–1:00pm
    • Wednesday, January 30th, 11:00am–1:00pm
    • Thursday, January 31st, 6:30pm–8:30pm
    • Sunday, February 3rd, 3:00pm–5:00pm
    • Monday, February 11th, 6:30pm–8:30pm
  2. Owner Bond information will be available at the downtown store information table inside the Eastside store, on our website (www.willystreet.coop), and at various events leading up to and following the grand opening.

Summary

We want/need as many owners as possible to consider purchasing a bond. We reduced the minimum purchase amount from the last bond drive. We set an interest rate that we believe values the importance of our owners and are trying
to make information about this program accessible. We hope you seriously consider this opportunity. Your support can also be voiced in other ways like paying off the balance of your equity Fair Share, voting, writing customer comments, and shopping. However you choose to show your support, the aggregate action will strengthen the Willy Street Grocery Cooperative and reaffirm its uniqueness as a community and business.