Now that Willy West has been open for one year, I feel it is an appropriate time to talk more philosophically about what it means to me to work here. Employment at this Co-op has been a privilege. I have never worked for a finer organization in my career. We do not claim to get everything right, but we make it right when we discover that we got it wrong. This commitment is applied to each and every Co-op employee, vendor, customer, and the community we all share. It is a philosophy we are determined to honor and nourish. From the moment we cut the ribbon, in fact at the Sneak Peek event, people came to join the group of local folks who first came together 37 years ago and decided there was a better way to get their groceries.
There are now over 28,000 of you! Those of us who work at your store in Middleton are getting to know you, and we are eager to hear from everyone as to what they expect and what would make it even better. With such a large group, responding to every request is difficult, but we try to address each concern or explain why we can’t. And just as the Co-op has always done, we will endeavor to cross the Ts and dot the Is.
These are very challenging times for Madison, Middleton, Wisconsin, the United States, indeed the whole planet. It is so important that everyone insist on value in every interaction and transaction. Our values determine the world around us. At the Co-op we try to walk the talk. We reward the vendors that really try to do things sustainably, and we invite everyone to help us support them. The world’s food systems are strained and we see it as our mission to reinvent those systems.
As you walk around the stores, look at the products. We choose them with these values in mind. Help us support them. In turn, we will keep doing it (and with smiles on our faces!).
In our first winter, staff here were all getting to know each other and the customers of the West store. There was a great deal to learn and some systems to adapt to. Our Production Kitchen ramped up to meet the demands of a two-store order. They got us through.
In the spring we began some great new relationships with local farmers. I did a little agriculture on my own, planting the patio with a little help from some local gardeners. I used some of the great compost and potting soil we sell in the store. The plants loved it! And the crabapple we transplanted to West from the backyard at the East store bloomed.
In later summer the beautiful flowers were attracting bees to the shopping center. I occasionally spent some time eating breakfast on the patio. It is a real bargain and we make it to order.
When the last blooming flower gave way to the cold weather, we stored some of the tables and shut down the outdoor patio. You can still sit there, but the sunflowers and the lilies will be taking the winter off and will be ready to greet you next year. So come inside now, have a warm bowl of soup, enjoy some of the reading materials, and take some time to get to know your friends in the commons (our indoor seating area).
For the rest of this year many people will be busy entertaining friends and family. Bring them here and enjoy yourselves or stop in and let us show you what we have to take home to serve your guests. Have some fantastic citrus we’ve brought in from distant sunny farms. Stop in after sledding with the kids and have some hot chocolate.
We’re going to be looking at our energy consumption and taking some steps to make it sustainable. Because we are already committed to this, we received this note from Mike Davis, Middleton City Administrator and Director of Community Development:
“On behalf of the City of Middleton, I want to pass along our congratulations to the Willy Street team on a job well done in winning the In Business Magazine recognition for 'Sustainable Large Business of the Year.' Since Middleton was recognized as the Sustainable Community of the Year in 2010, and no other community received that recognition this year, it appears that we’re a sustainable match of great achievement. Thanks for all you do to make Middleton even better!"