Starting a co-op
Q: Dear Willy Street Coop People,
While we were living in the Madison area, we became members of the WSC and enjoyed shopping and taking classes at (mostly) Willy Street West. Now we live near Watertown, NY and we really miss “our” coop! I read Resurgence of Local Food Co-ops in the February issue of Reader and am inspired to try to start a food co-op in this area.
Thanks, as always, for being committed to local food and community.
A: Thank you so much for the kind words! I’ll pass your feedback on to the author, Kirsten Moore. Good luck in Watertown and let us know how it goes! –Liz Wermcrantz, Editor
Q: I know it must be more difficult than I can even imagine to try and accommodate products in the bulk aisle to customers’ liking, but I have to add a request...
I would LOVE it if the gluten-free flours were not placed right next to wheat, rye, and barley flours (for example, right now corn meal and brown rice flour are rooming next to their gluten-containing buddies). It takes a good amount of coordination and attention on my part to not spill flours all over when scooping, as I’m sure it is for others as well, and although I can’t bake without these items, I can’t risk making my kids sick. I know there are packaged gluten-free flours available, but I would love to be able to buy them in bulk if this is at all possible.
THANK YOU for your consideration!
A: Thank you for taking the time to submit your comment. We are continually trying to merchandise our GF baking ingredients away from those with gluten wherever and as much as we can. I believe we currently have the majority of these items above our oats and glutenous flours just for this reason. We are looking to re-merchandise this section in the near future and will keep this in mind and try to do a mite bit better at it.
That said, given the nature of the bulk aisle, we will never be able to assure that anything in our bins is truly and completely gluten-free. It only takes filling one bin with a couple pounds of flour to get it in the air and subsequently everywhere else. I can ensure you that my staff takes great care in minimizing any potential contamination as best as they’re able.
Lastly, while it’s not truly “bulk” we do offer a (growing) number of 4-5# bags of gluten-free baking flours and mixes from Pamela’s Bakery.
Thanks again for your comment. As I mentioned we’ll pay particular attention to this when we reset the aisle again. -Patrick Humiston, Grocery Manager–East
Q: 1. Why are there no ORGANIC bakery pastries, cookies, etc. offered online?
2. Can you please stop carrying the Organic Brown Rice Tortillas?
The company refuses to post either Best By or Expiration dates, citing the Julian calendar. This is a terrible way to treat customers.
A: Thanks for writing. I’d be glad to answer your questions!
To your first question—are you referring to our housemade bakery products or packaged bakery products sold in our grocery departments?
Our housemade bakery products do use many organic ingredients, however we are not a certified organic bakery, so we can’t advertise the finished product as organic. We also do carry organic cookies in our grocery department, although unfortunately that designation is not necessarily spelled out in the title of the product on our website. I’d be glad to give you a list of such products if you’d like!
The Food for Life Tortillas come to us frozen and are guaranteed for 12 months from production if kept frozen. There are lot codes on each product that can help determine the date of production (there’s guide to this on their website at the bottom of the FAQ page). We generally take the tortillas out of the freezer when we receive them and stock them in our refrigerated case. When we do this, we sticker them with the date, and according to the Food For Life website, they should be good for two weeks in the refrigerator. I agree this is all a bit confusing. I’d be happy to help you decipher the lot codes of any products you may have. I hope this helps, let me know if you have any further questions! –Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing
Pure olive oil
Q: Is your extra virgin olive oil pure, or diluted with other oils?
A: Thanks for writing! I know there has been a lot of press about this issue recently. We don’t have a way to track the composition of the olive oils we carry with 100% certainty. However, we only work with vendors and brands that we trust, and we are certainly following the issue closely. We have yet to hear any specific concerns about the brands that we carry, however if we did, we would definitely discontinue the sales of any suspect olive oils.
I hope that helps answer your question, thanks again! –Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing
Hot gluten-free foods
Q: I’ve been going to the Co-op pretty regularly for groceries, a quick lunch or an easy dinner and it seems like lately there have been very few, if any, gluten-free options on the hot bar. Previously it seemed as though there were at least two hot gluten-free items and some things on the salad bar that were gluten free as well. I have noticed this with breakfast too. I used to be able to get a breakfast sandwich on gluten-free bread, now that is not an option. Is this trend going to continue? It’s been so easy to eat at the Co-op and now I find myself walking out empty handed. If you could share any of your thoughts on making or having gluten-free foods available as part of your hot food service that would be great. Thank you!!
A: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been disappointed in the gluten-free selection on your recent visits to Willy Street. We certainly have not made any attempt to curtail our gluten-free selectio—recently, we’ve been focusing the options on our hot bar to include more fresh vegetables, grain-free dishes and foods with ancient grains. I realize this last category isn’t gluten-free, of course. Please ask a staff member in the deli for some gluten-free options if you don’t see what you’re looking for—we’re happy to help! – Josh Perkins, Outgoing Prepared Foods Director
Q: You read that right, mealworms. I’m curious enough to try them. Can I order them through the coop?
A: Thanks for contacting us! Though eating insects has become a hot topic recently and I know they are a very sustainable protein source, Willy Street Co-op has yet to take the plunge and carry any insect protein in our stores. If the trend continues, I anticipate you may see a cricket energy bar or something of the like on our shelves in the next few years... stay tuned!
In the meantime, though we don’t have a way to order them through any of our suppliers, I did a little searching online and it looks like www.rainbowmealworms.net is a reputable source for mail order mealworms. Good luck! -Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing
Q: For those of us who like to hang out sometimes in the seating area with a pastry item and cup of java it would be appreciated if WSC could institute a refill policy. Many coffeehouses charge 75¢ for refills, not $2 each and every cup. Sound reasonable?
A: I have been looking into the possibility of doing this, as I agree with you that it’s a common policy in coffee shops. Our situation has more moving parts, as the handling of payment is separated from the service venue for these drinks, but I wanted to let you know that while I cannot roll something like this out sooner than summer/fall 2015, I am working on it. Thanks for writing in. -Josh Perkins, Outgoing Prepared Foods Director