You may have wondered how the Co-op decides which products we carry. Who makes the decisions that lead to a new product being sold or one being discontinued? The answer is simple—I am the decider.

My name is Dean Kallas and I am the Willy Street Co-op’s Merchandising Manager. Although I am the final authority on what products we sell at the Co-op, it is not easy being the decider, because everyone has an opinion about what we carry. Some shoppers want us to carry their favorite new product and others may be disappointed that one of their favorites has been discontinued. Your input helps me make these decisions. Product movement data is also used to help me determine what the proper product mix should be here at the Willy Street Co-op.

Companies who want us to sell their products are also constantly bombarding us with new offerings. I am very fortunate in this respect to work with a set of seasoned managers who do a great job of monitoring the pulse of what folks want to buy here. Together we are the gatekeepers when it comes to new offerings at the store. The knowledge of these savvy veterans, coupled with opinions voiced through our Customer Comment form—where shoppers often make new product requests—help shape the repertoire of products we offer.

When it comes to tasting samples of new products, I rely heavily on local experts and their palates to determine if the products actually taste good. The flavor of a new product is a major factor in whether we will carry it or not. Most of my experts are employees who I have worked with for many years. They either have certain dietary restrictions or preferences, or love certain types of food, and these habits have led them to try many brands from a specific category of food. For example, one of my coworkers is a fan of hot sauces. When I receive a new sample of hot sauce I give it to her to critique.

In deciding which mix of hot sauces we will offer, I try to provide a range of products to fit every budget. This same principal is applied to every category of product we sell. Some customers want the very best tasting products regardless of price. Others are shopping on a limited budget. The Co-op strives to serve the needs of the neighborhood and to respond to the requests of our owners (you).

While it’s always a tough decision to remove a product from our shelves, to make room for new products we need to discontinue others that are not selling as briskly. We regret if products you have purchased from us in the past are no longer available. Many of these are still available though our special order system. Please inquire with the appropriate department if you are interested in placing a special order.

Being the decider is always a balancing act. Within the Co-op’s limited space we cannot accommodate every request. We still commit most of our shelf space to organic and natural foods. Because these products can sometimes be pricey for some budgets, we also provide a limited range of commercial brands. We give preference to organic goods whenever we can find equivalent organic products at a similar price.

From its beginning the Willy Street Co-op has carried many locally grown or produced foods. Not only are these foods fresh, but we also believe supporting a vibrant local economy is the right thing to do. Of course the availability of local produce is seasonal. Flooding and other natural disasters can also affect area farmers’ capacities to supply your needs. We support Wisconsin producers and strive to provide local products whenever they are available.

Food grown locally and organically helps produce a cleaner, healthier environment. Sustainability has always been a cornerstone of the organic movement. By acquiring local foods and discouraging the use of hydrocarbon-based fertilizers, we hope to reduce the carbon footprint of our food consumption. Less energy is used to transport locally sourced foods, although the rising cost of gasoline has increased the cost of all our products. The rapidly increasing price at the pumps has driven up the cost of foods even more quickly for products that need to be brought from further distances.

I take seriously the responsibility I have been given to choose the products the Willy Street Co-op will sell. I couldn’t do it without your suggestions and the help of my co-workers. Please continue to fill out customer comments with your ideas. Your suggestions are invaluable to our decision-making process.

As a consumer co-op, we have an obligation to serve the needs of our diverse membership. We regret that we cannot fulfill every request or act on every good idea we receive. As the Co-op continues to adjust our product mix we will consider each suggestion. I may be the decider, but I’m here to serve your needs.