Last month I mentioned that for the last year the Co-op has been focusing on getting our finances in order, specifically our margin performance. Staff at all levels have pulled together to identify great efficiencies, reduce loss and continue to make your shopping experience successful and enjoyable. I am happy to report that this quarter has seen us return to profitability after six quarters in the red. Thank you to all of our loyal Owners and shoppers, and kudos to staff for addressing the areas of weakness!
At our Co-op, profits for profits’ sake are not the goal. Our focus on profitability is motivated by a desire to issue a patronage refund at the end of the year to all of our Owners, to reinstate benefits to staff such as merit raises and the 401k match, and to keep our organization healthy into the future. I hope despite impinging competition in and around our storefronts that we can continue to perform well this fiscal year, and reinstate all benefits in the FY17 budget.
Third Retail Site
As you probably know, Willy Street Co-op Owners approved pursuing a third retail site in an August 2014 vote. Reasons for searching for a new site included:
- offering a local grocery choice using the cooperative model to a new neighborhood
- providing easier access to a Co-op store for more Owners
- helping support more local and organic vendors (per our mission statement)
- helping a neighborhood that would otherwise be without a grocery store
- being proactive about competition
We investigated sites that matched our criteria, which included serving the needs of current Owners, serving needs of the community (including being accessible by foot, bike, bus and car), serving the needs of employees, being economically sustainable, being environmentally sustainable and being a cornerstone of a vibrant community.
In October of last year, the Northside Planning Council approached Willy Street Co-op about helping support a new grocery cooperative in the current location of Pierce’s Northside Market. In line with our history of helping other grocery co-ops, we pledged to help with this project as we were able. Because of challenges with organizing necessary funding in a very short time, the Northside Planning Council then approached Willy Street Co-op about taking over the Pierce’s location. We had been in negotiations with one of the other possible site options, but this opportunity presented itself as a priority to investigate as well.
If we were to open a store in this location, the Co-op would aim to be closed for a minimal amount of time (although no target opening date has been set). It’s not yet clear how many positions the Co-op will need to fill at the site; both Pierce’s employees and current Co-op staff will be encouraged to apply. We recognize that these employees have a strong connection to the neighborhood and the customers who shop at this store. The Co-op would plan to offer a product mix that includes both the full line of local, natural and organic products it is known for, as well as an increased number of conventional products similar to what Pierce’s had provided.
POP Drive Results
You may have seen signs for the Pantries of Plenty Community Fund Drive (POP Drive) at the registers over the holiday season. In 2014 we launched our first POP Drive, which raised $4,090 for the four food pantries that are also supported by our pantry donation shelves throughout the year: Goodman Community Center, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, the Lussier Community Education Center and Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM).
This year, as in the past, customers had the option to purchase $5, $10, or $25 POP Cards that would be added to a pool of funds divided evenly among the four pantries evenly when the drive was over. Funding was provided to the pantries in Co-op gift cards, to be used to stock the pantries with more than just non-perishable food.
I’m so pleased to share that in 2015 we raised $8,990—more than TWICE the amount of the first year! Thanks to everyone who participated in and supported the program!
Madison College Bakery Video
We were lucky enough to have a group of Madison College students highlight the Willy Street Co-op bakery and pies in a class project. They did a fantastic job at spotlighting our staff and local vendors who made holiday pies particularly tasty and meaningful this year. Thank you to the students and teacher, and to our staff who participated in the project. You can find the video linked on our Facebook page, on our website under Departments, then Deli, or on Vimeo: vimeo.com/149809408.
NessAlla in Bulk
By mid-February, NessAlla craft-brewed kombucha will be available in bulk for purchase in the grocery aisles at both retail stores! We will have three flavors to start with, and are pleased to offer yet another way to enjoy this stellar local product.
To learn more about this locally produced product, visit their website: nessalla.com. NessAlla hosts brewery tours on the second Thursday of each month.
Special store hours: February 21st
The annual staff party is scheduled for Sunday, February 21st; the retails will be closing early at 7:00pm!
CRF Applications Due February 29th
There’s still time to submit Community Reinvestment Fund applications! The Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) Committee has posted application information on our website: www.willystreet.coop. Applicants must be certified 501(c)3 organizations working in the Madison and Middleton area. Grants may be awarded to projects covering one or more of the following topic areas: food justice/access, cooperatives, sustainable agriculture, health/wellbeing, and social change. The deadline for submission is February 29th, 2016. Check out our website to learn more.
Annual Meeting & Party (AMP)
Looking ahead… mark your calendars for the 2016 AMP, scheduled for July 14th at Central Park! The retails will close early, at 7:30pm, to allow staff opportunity to partake in the festivities.