Organics on the salad bar
Q: The salad bar says it’s 90% organic but only one or two items are labeled as such. Clearer labels as to what products are and where they’re sourced from would be appreciated.
A: Thanks for the feedback on better labeling our salad bar. Your suggestion is a great one and I’m going to work on implementing it this summer. In the meantime here’s a list of the few things that are not organic:
•Blue Cheese (locally sourced)
•Feta Cheese (locally sourced—
•Turkey (Michigan—antibiotic- and hormone-free)
•Ham (Garrett Valley)
•Croutons (Made in house, but not with organic bread)
•Cheddar Cheese (Locally Sourced; rBGH-free)
Besides the items listed above, everything else is organic. Thanks again for the awesome suggestion!
Cheers, Dustin Skelley, Deli Assistant Manager—East
Best Lemon cake
Q: The refrigerated slice of lemon cake with blueberry frosting I bought today was one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. Will you promise to keep making it? : )
A: Thanks for the praises! I’m so glad you are liking our lemon cake! I’ve passed your positive feedback on to our bakery and kitchen, and also shared it with our staff to enjoy. While we can never make promises about products being around forever, this kind of feedback definitely helps us make product and menu decisions, and we appreciate it. Have a great weekend! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: We were at the coop the other day buying some bulk items and produce. We noticed that some of the bulk items and produce like sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes are not from Wisconsin or the midwest. I frequently go to a coop in Minnesota that gets sunflower seeds locally from that state, why doesn’t our coop do the something similar? Also, why don’t you source from places like Don’s atthe farmer’s market for sweet potatoes. They have them almost year round in large quantities. Thank you for answering my questions.
A: Thanks for asking about our product sourcing. I checked in with the folks in our Produce and Grocery departments regarding sourcing. While it is true that there are local producers of sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes, there are a few reasons you may not see them on our shelves: seasonality and supply. With regard to sunflower seeds, it is possible that there is a Minnesota supplier that a co-op there is able to get sunflower seeds from at a price that is competitive and in quantities that can serve the owners of their cooperative sufficiently. Here at our Co-op, we have not been as lucky to find a local source that would adequately supply the demand at our stores. That said, our Grocery Category Manager Dean Kallas told me that he would check out sources again, and see if there’s one that is viable for us.
The same is true for sweet potatoes. Some farmers in Wisconsin may have very large supplies at the farmers’ markets, and have enough stored to last year-round. In some cases, they make better money on the supply they have by selling directly to the consumer than they would with us in the middle, and in other cases, their supply may be great for farmer’s markets with set times several times a week, but not enough to supply a grocer with product seven days a week. Presently, we simply have not been able to find a farmer or group of farms that produce enough sweet potatoes in Wisconsin to have enough stored up to sell us year round. When sweet potatoes are in abundance during the fall harvest season, it is much easier for us to provide a consistently local supply (and we do throughout the winter!). Please let me know if we may assist you further. –Kirsten Moore, Director of Communications
Q: Hello, I have three thoughts about the bulk sections. 1) If the bulk items typically stocked at each store could be listed on the new website, that would be amazing. Prices and current stock wouldn’t be necessary. 2) Bulk freezer section for items like blueberries, peas, etc. (Seattle has it: https://imgur.com/tXcTX2c). It’s possible this exists and I’ve missed it. 3) It would be awesome if you could advertise how the bulk foods come packaged, it would allow owners to make more educated decisions about what they purchase and how. This could be on the website or part of the bulk foods course (which I haven’t taken yet, so it’s totally possible that this already exists).
A: Thanks for your suggestions. We are in the middle of a long-term project that involves the development of an e-commerce website. This site will list, at a minimum, products that will be available for purchase via the site, including bulk items. Pricing will also be included, and we hope that at some point current stock would be available as well; this is a work in progress. With regard to frozen bulk, we have experimented with this in the past, and based on movement and space limitations, we have found that it is instead best at our stores to have a mix of product sizes available for customers to choose.
We do have a Simply Bulk class that is free for customers to take and learn about the bulk aisle and we also have a brochure with preparation guidelines. We have also produced videos about using the bulk aisle in the past as well. The class does talk about the various ways one can shop in bulk. Sizes and bulk packaging vary frequently, and so if there is a specific volume you are seeking, the best recommendation we have is to ask a bulk buyer. We will keep your thoughts about bulk education in mind as the new website is being developed. Please let us know if we may assist you further! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: Recently, my progress through TSA airport screening in Albany, NY was slowed because they saw something on the x-ray. It turned out to be my bag of Willy St Vegan Cowgirl Cookies. Clearly, I got them to Albany from Madison with no problem, but this was pretty funny, especially because my bags are usually full of electronics that I use for outreach activities (I am a professor of Electrical Engineering). I guess this proves that your cookies are really substantial if they show up so clearly on x-ray.
A: Thanks for sharing! You’re right, that’s pretty funny. Our Cowgirl Cookies have a reputation for being attention-getters, but getting TSA’s attention? Well, there’s a first time for everything. We hope you and the cookies enjoyed the trip! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Annual Meeting & Party Meal tickets
Q: On 07/11/17 I was told that the meal tickets for the annual party were out. I feel really bad about this. I have seen one member getting 5-6 meal tickets just based on what she says about the number of family members (the clerk didn’t check any document to verify). Then when I need just one ticket, they said the tickets were all out. This doesn’t seem to be fair; a party should be for every member who wants to join. Why don’t you limit the number of tickets per member (instead of just giving away any number of tickets even without checking and then ending up with no tickets for a member who needs the ticket), or make more meals for every member who wants to join? BTW, is there any way I can get the ticket at the party? I really want the meal ticket.
A: Thanks for contacting us with your concern. It’s true, we ran out of meal tickets. We switched to issuing a set number of tickets about five years ago when we ranout of food with ticket-holders in line. Since that time, we pledged to ensure that there was a meal for every Owner (and person in their household) who had a ticket.
Serving five thousand meals is all we’re capable of at this time, given the cost and the logistics of plating and serving them in under four hours. Depending on our finances in the next fiscal year and how our food service goes this year (it improves each year), we may decide to increase the number of meals next year, but that would likely be a fairly modest increase—maybe up to 5,500.
Because so much of the food has to be prepared ahead of time (brats have to be made, ingredients ordered, etc.), we wouldn’t be able to distribute an undefined number of tickets and ensure we’d have food for all of those ticket-holders.
As for distributing to families, we take our Owners at their word as to how many people are in their household—I don’t think there’s a good way that we could validate that, and it would be an onerous task for those distributing the tickets.
Having said all of that, in the weeks after the event we meet and evaluate what went well and what we should change next year. Your comments will be taken into account for that discussion. Although we ran out of meal tickets, we still had beverage and gift bag tickets, and free samples, kids’ activities, live music, the business meeting and more. Plus we allowed La Fete food vendors to start selling meals at 5:30pm for those who couldn’t get a meal ticket in time. I hope that you were able to attend, and thanks again for expressing your concerns. –Brendon Smith, Director of Communications
Best Chocolate Cheesecake
Q: Can I just say—for once a good comment and not a complaint—that the chocolate cheesecake slices you guys offer are the absolutely best dessert in the world! Thanks so much—no matter how bad a day I’m having I feel 1000% better after eating one of them! Luckily I can’t justify buying them a lot otherwise it could turn into a real problem! :) This is something you guys are doing absolutely perfectly! Thanks!
A: Thanks for the positive feedback about our chocolate cheesecake! I’ve passed it on to our Bakery Manager and Kitchen Director, as well as to all staff to enjoy! Have a great weekend! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: Hi, I’ve noticed that the co-op still uses food stickers for almost all of its produce. While small, this is an unavoidable source of plastic waste and it can add up over the immense number that are used. Can the co-op investigate alternatives to these ubiquitous plastic stickers? I’ve heard of supermarkets doing things like laser marking their produce, or even doing away with tags altogether. I think such an initiative would fit in very well with the values of the co-op, and it would be a good practice and example for other supermarkets in the area. The other big source of plastic waste in produce is the reduced price bin. All the discounted produce, except bananas, are completely wrapped in plastic. I feel this is counterproductive to the whole point of the discounted produce. If it’s meant to reduce waste, why does it use so much plastic? I haven’t done the research so I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if using the plastic ended up more wasteful and harmful to the environment than just chucking the produce. Has the co-op looked into alternatives to using plastic in the discounted produce?
A: Thank you for sharing your comment with us!
Many produce items come to us with stickers on them, straight from the farms they were grown and packed on. We unfortunately do not have much, if any, sway in this practice. There are some produce items that we put stickers on after they arrive at the Co-op. We do try to limit the number of items we sticker in house, due to waste and the time it takes to sticker multiple pieces of produce. However, when there are items that look very similar but have very different price points (for example: yellow peaches and white peaches, certain kinds of red heirloom tomatoes and regular slicer tomatoes), it is important that they are getting rung up correctly - and the best way we have found to solve this is to use stickers. We don’t have a way to laser tag our produce items at this time.
Regarding bagging discount produce items, we do try to fill up our discount bags so that we are not using more bags than we absolutely need to. Leaving the discount produce loose would be quite messy and would not allow for price differentiation between different discount items. Paper bags would not allow for seeing what is in the bag. Beyond that, I’m open to suggestions to plastic bag alternatives, but do not have any other ideas at this time.
Thanks for being concerned about reducing waste in your Co-op! We are always striving to make improvements and are open to suggestions like yours! -Brandy Schroeder, Willy North Produce Manager / Acting Produce Category Manager
Q: There is a young man conducting bible studies – one on one- several evenings per week at Willy North. Religious freedom is not protected in public places and I find this highly offensive/inappropriate.
A; Thanks for sharing your concerns with us. Without your providing us with your name or contact information, I am answering this question with the facts that you provided, and I am assuming these meetings are private conversations being had in our North commons between two people.
The Co-op is not a public please; it is a private business owned by 34,700+ people, and we valuethe diverse interests of both our Owners and other public customers. While we are a secular organization that does not offer, advertise or sponsor events with religious purpose or content, we are also open to all without religious discrimination. People are welcome to use tables in our commons to have private conversations with other consenting individuals, and we do not intervene unless the conversation has become disruptive. If the young man you speak of is speaking too loudly, is soliciting customers to have a discussion, or is engaging people who do not give him consent to speak with them, please let a manager on duty know when it is happening and we would be happy to review the rules of the commons with him. However, if he is talking with someone who wishes to talk with him, we believe they are within their rights to discuss or study topics of the choosing privately.
Please let us know if you have an further questions or concerns. –Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services
Q: The commons at North is so warm and inviting. The long table with fresh flowers, fireplace, toy area, computer access and lots of windows! Love it! Thank you. Oh, and water filter, too! Well done!
A: Thank you for taking the time to write to us, sharing your positive experience at Willy North. I have shared your comment with the rest of the staff to enjoy. Thanks again for reaching out. Hearing from folks like you really makes our day! Have a great one yourself! –Robert Halstead, Owner Resources Coordinator