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Meet Board Member Michael Chronister


by Stephanie Ricketts, Board Member

Happy last month of 2018 everyone! We are fully in the holiday season now, and I hope it’s more joyful than stressful for each of you. In my preparations for family meals, I found a sweet blessing to share with all of you; you’ll find it at the end of the article. 

There was no Board meeting in November, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. You may have seen a few purple-shirted Board members at each retail location helping bag groceries during our busiest time of the year. Thank you for including Willy Street Co-op in your celebrations!


Board Member Michael Chronister

I’m pleased to introduce you to another one of our new Board members, Michael Chronister! Michael was elected in the 2018 cycle for a three-year term on the Board. 


Stephanie Ricketts (SR): What was your first memory of Willy Street Co-op?

MC: I think I first learned about Willy Street by shopping there in college when I went to school here. I didn’t shop there much, but I knew if I wanted good food, that was the place to go. The first time I shopped at the Co-op was for a house party we were having. We wanted to get good food, and left the Co-op with fresh veggies, hummus, etc. We put together a nice spread. I remember thinking, “Wow, this food does taste better! Celery has a flavor; it’s not just a bland water log!” That was my first time shopping, and really having a connection to it. 

SR: How did you first learn about cooperatives, and what was the first co-op you joined?

MC: I grew up in northern Wisconsin, and back then everything was done via cooperatives. The telephone company was a cooperative, the electric company was a cooperative, and my parents were members of a credit union. So the first co-op I probably joined was their credit union, when I opened my first bank account. 

I remember when the telephone cooperative closed or consolidated, my parents got a check in the mail. It seemed weird to me that they were getting a check, but they explained that, because they were members of the co-op for so long they had all this equity built up. The co-op was giving it back. That left an impression on me. I thought that it was pretty cool. There’s a lot of history with co-ops in northern Wisconsin, in part because Scandinavian immigrants brought that model with them. Every small town had its own co-ops for everything. The cooperative model was very strong in northern Wisconsin.


SR: What do you rely on Willy Street Co-op for?

MC: Willy Street is the place where my household gets the majority of our groceries. I rely on it for all the fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s definitely always the place to go if I ever want anything special. I know I’m always going to find the best ingredients, the best products and I definitely rely on it for that.


SR: What are your top three favorite Willy Street Co-op foods?

MC: That’s a tough one—there are so many! One that we get a lot in my house (and it changes based on what’s on sale) are the chocolate bars. There’s a great selection of chocolate bars. Whether it’s the XOXO brand, or the one with the animals on it, we usually go down that aisle and grab whatever bars are on sale. I’m a big fan of hummus, especially the spicy Sriracha one. Last, though I haven’t seen them in awhile, the peanut butter cookies Willy Street Co-op makes are very very good.


SR: Do you have any favorite food traditions?

MC: We’ve made some of our own. My wife has been making French Onion Soup for Christmas, and if you haven’t made it before, it is an all-day process as you cook onions down until they’re a soup. We have these nice specific French Onion Soup bowls that we serve them in. It’s one of our new traditions.


SR: Besides being a Willy Street Co-op Board member, what else do you like to do with your time?

MC: Well, I am an avid biker. I like to get out and go on rides as much as I can. I bike to work year-round, so get a lot of riding in with regular commuting, but I also like to get out in summer as much as I can. I also like to home brew now and again as well. 


SR: What are you most excited about in being a new Board member, and what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges the Co-op will face over the next few years?

MC: For me it’s about learning as much as I can about the processes of the Co-op and being on the Board. Learning how my role relates to the Board in general, the General Manager and the Co-op as a whole. I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge base. 

I think the Co-op is in a good place. The Madison grocery scene in general, with new people always coming in, will be the biggest challenge. However, I think we are positioned well to keep our customer base and expand. The big question is always where the next store is going to be, if there is a next store. Expansion to a fourth retail location will be interesting, if it happens while I’m on the Board. As a Board member, going through that search, securing funding, working through the finances, etc. would be interesting. 


SR: Is there anything else you’d like our Owners to know?

MC: I’m excited to be on the Board! I’m very new at this, but looking forward to learning as much as possible. If you see me in the store please say hi, and feel free to ask me whatever you want. I’ll do my best to answer!


A little holiday blessing

For what we are about to receive

let us be truly thankful

…to those who planted the crops

…to those who cultivated the fields

…to those who gathered the harvest.


For what we are about to receive

let us be truly thankful

to those who prepared it and those who served it.


In this festivity let us remember too

those who have no festivity

those who cannot share this plenty

those whose lives are more affected than our own

by war, oppression and exploitation

those who are hungry, sick and cold


In sharing in this meal

let us be truly thankful

for the good things we have

for the warm hospitality

and for this good company.

As always, thank you for being a part of this Cooperative! See you in the New Year.


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