After a unanimous Board vote, we terminated the lease on the Metropolitan Place, Phase II store site on March 24th.

The discussion of whether the Co-op can open a retail at Metropolitan Place II or not had been the topic of conversation for the Board, management team, and staff for the last few months. The plan for the Co-op to open a retail site at Metro Place was first dealt a blow when the announcement was made in January that the developer (Buckingham) could not meet their financial obligations with the bank, resulting in the bank filing a motion against the developer. In March, we learned that a deal had been stuck between Buckingham and the bank, which included or was limited to the sale of the commercial condo units to another developer. But after the developer’s delay and the associated expenses (contractor costs, material and supply cost increases, labor costs, missed sales and mounting legal fees) had been measured against what we could now afford, the Board judged moving forward with the deal would be too risky to our core operation.

Since the beginning of the year, when the Co-op first learned of the developer’s inability to reimburse the Co-op for tenant improvements, the Co-op has worked to decrease expenditures from any place we could. We discontinued every possible phase of work related to the downtown site and worked to identify any expenditure that could be reduced within the current operation. We looked for ways to improve efficiencies, and we also asked staff to voluntarily cut their scheduled hours. We developed a comprehensive list of actions we could take to reduce spending with the last item listed being layoffs. Staff has done a fantastic job evaluating our current systems and procedures, and implementing different processes to support the overall operation (decrease spending).

But, the sad fact is our personnel expenses need to be reduced even more now that we won’t be opening a second store in the next six months. (We are starting to search for another location for a second store, but it will take at bare minimum that long to open one.) We are currently carrying staff that was hired to work in the downtown store. No matter how we have tried to cut operational expenses labor cutbacks are necessary to return the business to a steady state, as well as a single-store format.

In the past, when the labor expenses were higher than budgeted, we were fortunate that sales increases were enough to surpass the budgeted goal, making reduction in personnel via layoffs not necessary. I would love to ask you to buy more groceries at the Co-op, enough to cover the added personnel expenses we are now carrying so we could avoid staff layoffs, but that is not realistic. The plan for downsizing has been pulled together and was announced to staff on the afternoon of the 24th and the membership thereafter. We estimate that seven to 15 positions will needed to be cut, approximately the number of positions created to support a second store. Staff laid off by the Co-op will be contacted as soon as positions open up for them to possibly fill.

Of course, the situation could have (and probably will have) changed by the time this newsletter reaches you. Please check our website (www.willystreet.coop) or the Information Station in the store for the most up-to-date information. And feel free to contact me with questions or concerns: a.firszt@willystreet.coop or 251-6776.

POWER out

We have been informed by MG&E that our electricity will be shut off for a few hours on Sunday, April 6th from 2:00pm until no later than 6:00pm. The store will be clsed during this time. We will open sooner if possible. Feel free to call 251-6776 or check www.willystreet.coop to see if we are able to do so.

Annual Membership Meeting: Thursday, July 10th, 2008

The Annual Membership Meeting (AMM) is scheduled for Thursday, July 10th at Madison Central Park. NOTE the change in the month and the location!

We have decided to partner with the organizers of the Le Fête de Marquette to make better use of our combined resources—mainly money. We realized we could share in the expense of the tent(s), stage, beer wagon, stage, and music and achieve more bang for our buck. The Co-op’s annual membership meeting and party will be held Thursday (July 10th) with Le Fête scheduled for Friday through Sunday (July 11th though 13th).

Bylaws

The proposed bylaws were accepted by the membership with a vote of 282 in favor and 24 opposed. In the coming few weeks the Co-op will make the necessary plans to address the bylaw changes; for example, the Board of Directors candidate nomination deadline. Stay tuned.