We welcome your comments and give each one attention and serious consideration. Send them to or fill out a Customer Comment form in the Owner Resources area. Each month a small selection is printed in the Reader. The rest can be found in the commons or in the binder near Customer Service. Thank you!
Q: Thank you for the patronage rebate. But would you please write an article in the newsletter explaining in more detail what it really means for us to have more equity in the Co-op. I understand we get some patronage rebates in store credit and the rest is equity. Is that something we can take out at some point in the future? How can we have more equity than the [cost of a Fair Share]? Is it in “name” only? Is it like the bonds we bought a while ago? Is it just a way of saying we get money back when we really don’t? I’m confused!
A: That is a great question and we’ll add this to our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
The surplus (a.k.a. profit) we earn has always belonged to Owners. However, previously the surplus was designated as Unallocated and we paid federal income tax on the full amount. The only difference now is that we are allocating the surplus to Owners proportionate to their patronage.
From the Co-op’s perspective, we’re essentially not doing anything differently with the surplus than we’ve done in the past. In the past, when we’ve earned a surplus we’ve put it back into the Co-op to expand operations, purchase new equipment, upgrade facilities or meet current operating needs. The two main differences now are: 1. Owners have the surplus that we put back into the business directly in their name as equity (just like owners of most business); and 2. We do not pay federal income tax on the full refund that is allocated to Owners. This keeps more money at work in our community that the Co-op would have paid in taxes.
The only time that the retained patronage equity is returned to Owners is if at some date in the future the Co-op Board is in a position to do so and returns all the equity from a given year. It is unlikely that retained equity will be returned to Owners in this way. More likely is that there will be future years where we decide to retain a smaller percentage of the refund as equity and offer a larger percentage as store credit.
Owners’ Fair Share amounts ($56/$91) are a different class of equity and are available for refund upon request.
Most importantly, all businesses incorporated as cooperatives in Wisconsin are able to take advantage of significant tax savings by distributing profit back to their owners. -Lynn Olson, Director of Cooperative Services and David Waisman, Director of Finance
Q: What exactly does “Local Source” butter mean? I see the distributor is in Middleton. Do you know what dairies make up the Local Source butter? Thanks.
A: The Co-op gets Local Source butter (as well as Sugar River Yogurt and Westby products) from the distributor UW Provisions (UWP), located here in Middleton. Local Source is UWP’s proprietary brand, produced at the Alcam Creamery in Richland Center, WI. The vast majority of Alcam’s cream comes from Wisconsin milk produced close to Richland Center. Only if they have trouble sourcing enough cream to produce their butter will they source milk from outside Wisconsin. Have a great day! -Claire Maduza, Grocery Buyer–West
Q: Hi. This past Sunday I stopped by the West side store to get some popsicles for my daughter who has been ill. I was surprised to see that you carry popsicles that contain high fructose corn syrup. I don’t remember the brand. Fortunately you had an alternative that contained natural sugars so I purchased those. I try to avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup because of things I’ve read about its ill effects in the body, esp. in my kids. I guess I was surprised because it didn’t seem to mesh with my idea of Willy Street as a natural and healthy foods store. I know when I shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s I will not find high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils and I assumed Willy Street would be the same. Is my perception of the foods Willy Street offers incorrect? Can you explain this to me? BTW I love the new West Side store. Thanks.
A: Thank you for writing about your observation. Yes it’s true—sometimes we carry products that contain controversial ingredients. That’s another one of the differences between being a cooperative that’s owned by the shoppers using the store vs. a private corporation. While we do have a Natural Foods Product Policy that bans any foods claiming to be “natural” but containing unnatural ingredients; we do our best to educate Owners about the information so that they can make their own choices about what they eat. Another characteristic of a cooperative is that every time an Owner shops, they’re essentially voting with their dollars. Even with our education, if Owners continue to support a product on the shelf, we will continue to carry it for them. It is our hope that one day all Owners will make healthy choices and we can discontinue some of the less nourishing ones.
However, because price is a major factor in keeping the Co-op accessible to all Owners, if we can find a healthier product for about the same/lower price as the unnatural one, we will normally try to introduce it and eliminate the other. Again, thanks for asking so that others can read the response. -Lynn Olson, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: Coffee bar currently has non-dairy creamer, which I can’t drink, and cream. Any possibility of also providing milk—anything from skim to whole? Thanks.
A: Thank you for your comment. We just don’t get that request often enough to offer it as a regular alternative, but you are welcome to ask for a splash of milk at anytime. Thanks! -Gina Jimenez-Lalor, Deli Manager–East
Q: I’m hoping that you have co-op principles and mission statement prominently displayed at the Westside store.
A: Thanks for taking the time to write. A display of the co-op principles and mission statement are in the plan for the Westside store, but they are not up yet. They are both an important part of the Co-op so we will definitely have them displayed. -Liz Hawley, Cooperative Services Assistant–East
Q: I love the Co-op—come all the time and am usually super happy here. Tonight I arrived at 8:45 to massive cleanup/store closing activities. Mopping, sweeping, etc. I felt like I, and the other customers were in the way. Not cool. Thanks.
A: Thanks for writing. Speaking on behalf of the Front End, our staff handles a variety of closing duties for the store at large: bathrooms, cleaning and dismantling of common areas, sweeping of register areas, and cleaning/storage of rugs. We do generally begin those duties approximately an hour before closing; this can sometimes be dependent on the number of customers we have in the store and/or the amount of staff we have during that time.
Going forward, I will caution the Front End on the time of these tasks so that customers do not feel that they are an inconvenience. While completing these things efficiently is important, maintaining a welcoming, safe environment for our Owners is even more so. Thanks again. -Jesse Thurber, Front End Assistant Manager–East
Q: The bagel price recently went up from 99 cents to $1.19. This increase is ridiculous! A bagel should cost 50¢-75¢ max. $1.19 is the cost of 2 to 2.5 bagels—not one. I realize you get the bagels from Gotham, and I really appreciate not having to walk to the square to get them. But, let’s face it, there are no ingredients in bagels that justify this expense—flour? water? I realize there may be labor issues involved as well, but I don’t buy that argument. What I did buy was bagels. I’m a grad student. Bagels are a large part of my diet. With this 1/3 price increase I may no longer be able to buy them regularly. Please don’t bring new meaning to the phrase “starving grad student!”
A: We appreciate your feedback. The price increase was a direct result of an increase in cost of goods. The cost of wheat (flour) went up, Gotham raised their cost, we then raised our price accordingly. -Gina Jimenez-Lalor, Deli Manager–East