As we get closer to the one-year anniversary of Willy North, it’s important for our Co-op to reflect on you: the Owners, the backbone of our business. Your Ownership is your voice in how we cooperate together to provide groceries to our community. Each one of you can play a part in making major decisions about our business because you are invested in the cooperative, and we also listen to you and look to you for feedback regarding what we can do to serve you better. One of the biggest values of a cooperative business is that each Owner gets one vote. It’s not how much money you invest that counts; it’s that you are invested, period. And that means that we are here to serve your collective needs and the needs of your community. Here is a look back on some of the things we have done recently because of you, the Owners.
Opening Willy North
You voted way back in 2013 to allow your Co-op to explore opening a third retail location, giving your Board and employees the backing and flexibility to decide where to best locate that third store. When we began to consider the space that is now Willy North, it was your overwhelmingly positive input that gave us the confidence that we were headed in the right direction with our decision (over 90% of the comments we received about opening North were positive). Here we are today with a beautiful new store that is right on track and being increasingly embraced by our community.
We bring in products based on what our Owners ask us to provide, and when they sell well and remain available to us, those products remain on our shelves for you to purchase when you need or want them. This year, when we opened North, we purposefully opened the doors with only about 80% of the shelves stocked. We did this so that you could tell us how to fill those shelves. Thanks to your input, your Co-op added 6,372 new products (from about 1,340 brands) to the shelves at North in the last year, and many others at East and West too.
We want your Co-op to be a store where you can take care of as many of your grocery needs as possible, and we appreciate your continued advice as to how we can make that possible for you.
Fundraising for Double Dollars
Due to the requests of numerous Owners and their generous offers to help us support shoppers with low income, we launched a new fundraising initiative: the Double Dollars Fund, to support the Double Dollars program at the Co-op and local farmers’ markets, which helps shoppers using FoodShare/QUEST purchase more fresh and local foods. Customers contribute either by reusing bags to carry groceries or by making a cash donation using a scan card at the registers. Since we launched the program on April 3rd, we finished Fiscal Year 2017 on July 2nd having already raised $19,314 for the program. Thank you for requesting that we start a program for this cause and for your continued contributions! We plan to bring Double Dollars back to the Co-op this October.
Customer Comments—98% Response Rate!
You see some of the customer comments each and every month in the Reader and also posted in our stores. Did you know that we actually receive on average about 129 comments per month? It’s true. In the last fiscal year we received 1,545 comments and responded to over 98%. Comments typically include requests for Co-op product recipes, updating Owner records, naming what products you would like to see on the shelves (and in some cases hearing you would not like to see on the shelves), providing general suggestions, and responding to both positive and negative Co-op experiences. Your input has helped us do a number of things this past year, such as improve signage, bring in more products, start the Double Dollars Fund, add some classes and offer more classes for free, add more vegan meals to those available for the Annual Meeting and Party, bring back grab-and-go sandwiches prepared in-house at all three locations, and more.
Your Input Is Making Our Future
We have some great things coming for your Co-op at all three locations this year, thanks again to your continued patronage and input.
At Willy East, we are preparing to make good on one of the top three requests provided in Owner surveys every year for the past twelve years: adding a small beer, wine, and cider section. We applied for our liquor license last month and the neighborhood meeting that is part of the licensing process is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8th at 7:00pm. We plan to have about six feet of cooler space and about six feet dedicated to non-refrigerated selections. Product will be limited, and selection will prioritize beers made here in Dane County.
We are finalizing the details to build our outdoor commons area at Willy North, and we are also working to expand our deli offerings to include Juice Bar products, and made-to-order sandwiches. This will make good on what may have been thenumber one request we saw last year for Willy North, and we’re excited to be able to offer these services to you on the north side in the near future.
You also just voted in favor of our expanding Willy West (85% of votes cast voted yes to expansion on last month’s ballot). Thanks to your support, we can now begin to see what we can do to make this expansion a reality for you. Expansion would improve traffic flow throughout the store, widen the aisles for a better customer experience, allow us to expand our beer and wine selection, and improve our Juice Bar work and service area. We also hope to increase cooler space so that we can reduce out-of-stocks and bring in more products you have requested.
We Are Your Co-op, Your Business
The cooperative also voted last month in favor of us continuing to pursue expansion, which means that we will be looking at options to improve our ability to serve even more of you better over the next three years. There are now almost 35,000 reasons to own your Co-op, and so it’s your collective input that has really provided us with the information we need to know what we can do better for all of you, and where you would like us to focus our attention as we move into the future. Thank you for all your feedback! We appreciate our ongoing conversation with you and the continued opportunity to be your business and to serve our local community.