On November 15th at 10:00 am we opened up the doors at Willy Street Co-op–West in Middleton. City officials, our landlords Al and Aaron Anding, representatives of our construction companies, and General Manager Anya Firszt all came together for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was the culmination of a lot of planning, commitment, cooperation, and determination. Hundreds of Willy Street Co-op employees and Owners were also on hand and shared the sense of accomplishment. They were all part of the effort as well. Every single responsibility and task has someone who deserves credit. Years of effort came together, and the people from the community certainly flooded in.
On that day I made my way around the store over and over, welcoming people, meeting new friends, and greeting old friends. They all expressed excitement and gratitude that Middleton had a new grocery store and a community rallying point. Young and old, they came in, became new Owners, picked out some things and started counting Willy West as their local grocery store. Over the entire week, the scene was repeated all day, every day. Willy Street Co-op has really grown!
Many of the people who came in the last couple of weeks were Owners from the past who were reconnecting, and dedicated Owners who were regularly making their way across the Isthmus to the eastside store. They let us know how happy they were that they could choose to shop closer to home while maintaining their commitment to their dearly held Co-op Principles. I overheard many of them remarking that some of the things that we have in the store were impossible to find anywhere other than the eastside store. That makes us very happy.
Now begins the challenge of assessing in a detailed way the needs of the neighborhood we have moved into. Each of the employees knows that this is a communication challenge. Some of the shoppers haven’t hesitated at all to let us know about things they are used to seeing at Willy East, wondering if they will be available at Willy West. We are committed to accommodating them as best we can, and we certainly can use Co-Shop program (online shopping and deliver, used together or separately) operating with Willy East eastside as its home base to faciliate that. So if Willy Street Co-op sells it at all, we can get it to you.
Willy West has been experiencing a very busy Juice Bar, and that has certainly not been a surprise to me. It is a feature not available very many places, so come in and try it! We offer fresh vegetable and fruit juices, wheatgrass and other greens—these are cornerstone items for people looking for ways to enhance their health and we’ve got ’em!
We also have the Health and Wellness commitment that people are used to at East—including the popular Wellness Wednesday sale which offers customers 10% off on all Health and Wellness merchandise every first Wednesday of the month. Representatives from a variety of vendors are sampling in the store a lot, and so people will have a chance to meet some of the dedicated and creative people who have decided to bring their high quality products to a market where they can be appreciated.
The Produce department has been working some long days; even they are surprised at the level of interest that people have in their offerings. Many visitors tell me that the produce just looks “amazing,” and they find it a very refreshing experience and also a rewarding one, because they know that they are participating in a relationship with people who have a serious commitment to what they are doing. Some of the products are coming from very far away at this time of year, but you still know when you buy your produce at Willy Street Co-op that it is a local connection in that the people who reach out to organic farms across the continent view that relationship as incredibly important. We are supporting products that are produced in the right way, and that counts.
If you find yourself getting hungry when you’re at the Co-op, it might be because you’re smelling something tasty from the Deli area. The Deli is like a non-stop cafeteria here and more. It’s a place to create a meal on your own, or with a partner behind the sandwich bar. And that meal is created from products that you can feel good about, too. The taste of these items is unmistakably fresh and wholesome. And the smile that the employee gives you is genuine. They’re glad you’re there, and they want you to feel right at home. They want you to have all the information you need to make a good choice. We try to provide as much information as we can about every single dish, so look for the labels. If you don’t see the information you need, please feel free to ask! We love telling you about our food.
Behind the scenes, our Production Kitchen has been really ramping up to serve both stores. The people there are heroes to all of us for their attention to detail, commitment to quality, and willingness to make it all happen smoothly and on schedule. The same feeling of accomplishment you may get from talking to a Willy Street Co-op worker at either store is definitely present in the Kitchen staff. Hats off to them!
Lastly, a word about our fledgling Meat department. It’s a very happening place! Signs are up, advertising that “We Cut to Order.” Some great cuts of meat are on display, and if you need more or less, thicker or thinner, steak or stir-fry, the Meat department will respond to that request immediately. We sold a lot of organic and natural turkeys for the holidays, and we always have fresh pork, beef, and chicken on hand. All of these products come from ethical and sustainable operations run by families committed to the earth and concerned for the livestock they raise.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the launch of the store, excited about the potential, and grateful for the tremendous support we already feel from the community. You are here for us, and we commit to being here for you. Welcome to all the new Owners, and thanks to all the long-time supporters! It’s a typical Wisconsin winter, but you won’t feel it when you’re in this store. It’s warm and ready to give you what you need when you need it!