My name is Michael Byrne and I’m the new store manager of Willy Street Co-op West opening up in Middleton this month. I thought I would share with you a few of my thoughts and encourage you to interact with everyone in our store on any level that feels comfortable for you. We will be eager to listen to your concerns, criticisms, observations, and praises. This store is a work in progress and you, the Owners (and for that matter anyone reading this who happens to come in to shop), can be a part of this evolution. No business can flourish without actively seeking input from its customers. And since at the Co-op the customers are the Owners, our experience is that they are even more eager to contribute and suggest. Overall, we hope our store can be as responsive as you need it to be. We expect you to help us be exactly what you need us to be and will be happy to cater to special diet needs. We are eager to meet you and see you on a regular basis. We hope it is a joy for you to shop with us, and we hope that if there are things that you feel need improvement you tell us right away. You’ll find that the people at the Customer Service desk are extremely friendly and really willing to help. If you’d like a tour of the store, they can arrange it. I want everyone to feel like they can ask anyone they find working there any question. If they don’t know the answer, they will certainly find someone who does!

Committed to Local Growers
So as we approach the opening of the Willy West store, I’m getting very excited about our opportunity to establish a business in Middleton that is committed to finding, encouraging, and strengthening the local growers around Madison and the upper Midwest. We will be networking with them and encouraging them to come and share their harvests with our customers. Anyone watching the national news knows that the supply chains that move vast quantities of food around this nation are strained and sometimes erratic. We’ve all heard of recalls because some of the food has been unsafe. Consumers know that the source of their food is not immediately discernible because there is no real way to pinpoint where something was grown or by whom. This is where Willy Street Co-op–West is going to make its mark. That’s what Willy Street Co-op already does on the east side of town. Anyone shopping at Willy Street Co-op can contribute to this commitment by letting us know about growers and putting us in touch with people who are interested in getting involved in growing.

Produce
Our Produce department will be sourcing vegetables and fruits from all over. We will try to procure the finest organic and conventional products as locally as possible. Of course everyone here knows that deep in the winter of Wisconsin, fresh vegetables must come from afar. But our network is wide, and we have good people in places like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago, whose mission is to bring in great stuff from California, Arizona, and elsewhere. Our standards are high because we want to know we can trust what comes in. That’s what the mission of the Co-op is, and we’re going to live up to it!

Deli
Our Deli department at the westside store is intended to be a healthy place for families to get great foods with nutritious items that they can trust. You’ll find some of our classic Willy Street Co-op items and then some. We will have a way that you can get some essentials and build a meal around them. At lunchtime, as well as dinner, we will have someone around who can cook up a wonderful sandwich for you on our flat grill. As always, we will have fresh juices and soups, as well as fair trade coffees.

Meat and Dairy
We’d like you to share in our dream and, once in a while, come in to see what’s for dinner. We’ll have lots of suggestions, a few things prepared, and lots of things to spice it up. You’ll be able go home and completely surprise your family! We will have a new adventure with our meat counter. We’ve been cultivating relationships with local growers of beef and pork and have good, healthy chicken as well. Our regular sources of organic eggs are on board with us at Willy West, as well as our line of natural and organic dairy products and soy products.

Grocery
You can also depend on Willy West for the grocery needs of a customer who wants quality, integrity, and sustainable sources. The people who select these items have years of experience in the Co-op, and are excited about the new store, too. If you have suggestions, we are listening! Some of our best items are produced in Madison and the surrounding area. You probably get them already, and now they’ll be right in the middle of the Middleton community. We will also carry a selection of local beers and wines to go with our excellent selections of local cheeses.

Health & Wellness
For years I’ve been hearing from customers I know who want to buy all kinds of natural soaps, lotions, medicines, supplements, textiles, and even kitchen gadgets. They’ve been sentenced to trips deep into Madison to find them. Well, no more. We’re bringing them to you. We know there are Owners already and potentially many more who live west, north, and south into the countryside who just couldn’t make the time in their schedules to get all the way to the east side to buy these items.

Education
Lastly, I need to mention that the mission of the Co-op has been, and always will be, educational. We’re going to have a very nice Community Room with a complete kitchen for cooking classes, health seminars, and just about anything else someone would want to do of a community nature. Just like on the eastside, you will be able to schedule that room for something that’s important to you.

A work in progress
It’s an honor to serve the Co-op in the capacity as store manager. The Co-op is a work in progress, and everyone working there shares the joy of that creation. Feel free to contact me at any time about anything, and I can’t wait to meet you all!

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