If you’ve stopped by the Willy Street Co-op Deli recently, you may have noticed a new face—mine! I took over as Deli Manager in late May after the resignation of long-time manager and prepared foods master Dan Moore.

First off—a little about myself

I’m a proud Madison native—a graduate of East High and UW-Madison. If you’re a long time Co-op shopper, you may recognize me; I worked part-time in the Produce department at Willy Street Co-op during my last year of college, and stayed on full-time in Produce for another year after that.

About six years ago, a sense of adventure drew me out to the West Coast, where thanks to my Willy Street Co-op experience; I landed a job in the produce department at the North Coast Co-op in Arcata, California. The North Coast Co-op is very similar in size and feel to Willy Street Co-op, so I quickly felt right at home. I worked my way up through the ranks, first as Assistant Produce Manager, then Produce Manager, and finally Assistant Merchandiser for both the North Coast Co-op’s two locations. This position focused mostly on produce (I was the main produce buyer, pricer, and merchandiser for both stores), but also allowed me to branch off and lead projects in many other departments, including deli.

Though I’ve always been a huge proponent of local and sustainable food, during my time in California these issues became even more central to my life. I got to know and respect many of the local farmers in the area, and in September 2007 I undertook a personal month-long eat local challenge where I only ate foods that were grown in the county I lived in. I blogged about that experience, (www.mymonthoflocalfood.blogspot.com), and decided that I loved writing about local and sustainable food so much that I started a new blog: The Good Food Muse (www.thegoodfoodmuse.net), which I still write today.

Though I liked my job in California immensely, my love for the Midwest never went away, and this winter I decided it was time to move back home. I arrived just in time for the intense cold snap we had in January—a fitting welcome back to Wisconsin!

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to come back to Willy Street Co-op as the new Deli Manager. Though it’s been six years since I last worked here, there are many familiar faces among the staff, and it still feels like home.

A whirlwind of training

The first few weeks on the job have been a whirlwind of training—getting myself up to speed on all the ins and outs of the Deli, Cheese department, and Juice Bar has proved to be no small task! I’m slowly getting the hang of it, and looking forward to the day when all the operational details are under my belt so I can start focusing on the exciting challenge of making our already stellar Deli even better!

A few ideas

I have a few ideas already in mind. First, I’d like to increase the variety of our Deli offerings, with even more of an emphasis on local and seasonal foods. I’d also like to think of ways to make our customers’ shopping experience even better than it already is—so that you can always count on us for the best customer service and the cleanest, easiest-to-navigate deli in Madison. None of this is easy, especially in these challenging economic times, but we have a great foundation to build on and a wonderful staff, so I have no doubt we’ll get there!

Customer feedback

Though I could come up with a long list of changes I’d like to see in the Deli, I’m more interested to know what you, the customers, are thinking. What do you feel is working in the Deli, salad bar and Juice Bar? What would you like to see changed? Though I can’t promise immediate change (my plate is still pretty full just making sure things run smoothly day-to-day), I also know that now is a great time to make change happen—to examine our Deli with a new set of eyes and ensure that it’s living up to its full potential. Feel free drop me a line or email and let me know what you think ( )!