by Stephanie Ricketts, Board Member
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”-Oprah Winfrey
Happy New Year fellow cooperators!
And just like that, we’re in a brand new year. Thank you to each of you for taking the time to read our Board updates, and for being a part of this cooperative.
Willy West Expansion
At our November 28th meeting, the Board reviewed plans for the expansion of Willy West into the neighboring, now vacant, storefront. Specifically, the Board approved up to $2 million dollars from a mix of Bond and bank debt to finance these expansion plans. This follows up on the referendum vote Owners approved during the summertime elections. Keep an eye out in the in this issue and in the months ahead for more details from staff!
Board Tabling Beginning in 2018
Ever wish you could talk to a member of the Board directly? Curious about policy governance, and how the Board operates? Starting in 2018, Willy Street Co-op Board members will be setting up in the retails to meet with any and all of you! A schedule will be posted online, and we’ll share out the details of where you can find the Board in these reports too. I hope you’ll come by and say hello—we’d love to hear from you!
Introducing… Emma Cameron!
Emma is another of the new Board members elected in 2017! I had the pleasure of talking with Emma about co-ops, endurance sports, and more.Learn a little about her below!
Stephanie Ricketts (SR): What was your first memory of the Willy Street Co-op?
Emma Cameron (EC): I remember when I first came to Madison in the fall of ’15, and I had been involved in co-ops a lot in college. I had heard that Madison had a lot of co-ops, which was exciting to me. I wanted to live in the Willy Street area in particular, having heard that there were a lot of co-ops and cool organizations in the neighborhood. I moved there, and found that the Co-op was a couple blocks away. I walked over, went inside and was blown away by the way the Co-op was laid out, how well it was put together. It seemed to be a positive force in the community. All the people hanging out outside in August, having their food outside, groups tabling, lots of music… I looked into becoming a member right away, and thought it was cool that there was such a great place so close to me. It was one of the first things I did in Madison and it colored my whole experience living here.
SR: How did you first learn about cooperatives, and what was the first co-op you joined?
EC: I was probably a junior or sophomore in high school, and I was looking at colleges to go to, reading the descriptions. One college (Oberlin College) had this large system of student cooperatives (the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association, OSCA) —so many that they took up about a third of the campus population. It was something that people could participate in instead of traditional campus housing and dining. I was really inspired by how students ran every aspect of the co-ops, from budgeting to what food was purchased and served. It inspired me to apply and I ended up going there, and got instantly involved with the co-ops. I have been interested in the cooperative model ever since.
SR: What do you rely on Willy Street Co-op for?
EC: I think Willy Street Co-op is a positive force in the community, for starters. Just to have it be a centerpiece of the Willy Street area, and the neighborhood. The Co-op is so involved in so many activities in the community. We were just reading over one of the policies for the Board that the General Manager reports to us on, and it was proof of how involved the Co-op is the community. On a personal level, I love the bulk section. Getting dried fruits, nuts, and grains from the bulk section always makes for a happy day for me.
SR: What are your top three favorite Willy Street Co-op foods?
EC: Number one is definitely the coconut date rolls. I just cannot get enough of them. Number two is the vegan blueberry lemon cookie. It’s roughly a dollar—so cheap that I can’t resist getting it almost every time I go. Third is any kombucha. Every time I go to the Co-op, I end up getting kombucha.
SR: Do you have any favorite food traditions?
EC: Ever since the days when I was in a co-op in college, we would always have this tradition of co-op pizza nights. On Friday evening, we’d serve pizza to the hundreds who would come to the co-op. We always made the pizzas completely from scratch. Ever since then, wherever I live, my friends and I keep the tradition, and every couple of Fridays, we spend a lot of time making the dough, the toppings, and going through the whole baking process. We have a community-style pizza night, invite a lot of people and give out free pizza. It’s a great time.
SR: Besides being a Willy Street Co-op Board member, what else do you like to do with your time?
EC: I am a graduate student in geochemistry, so that does take up quite a bit of my time. I am very into endurance-related activities, like running and biking, and when the weather is good for it, swimming and a little rock climbing. I especially appreciate longer events because I get an almost meditative or spiritual experience out of it, from having a chance to be alone with my thoughts for an extended period.
SR: What are you most excited about in being a new Board member?
EC: I’m most excited about generative work. In the past couple of years the Co-op’s Board has focused on existing policies, creating better alignment around those, making sure they’re correctly worded, etc. Now that those policies are all in place and working, we can look to the future and what the Co-op is looking to be, while also making sure the newest store, Willy North, is successful and sustainable. I like thinking about the future of the Co-op, and how it can be a positive force in the community.
SR: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges the Co-op will face over the next few years?
EC: I think it’s obvious to a lot of the Board right now that moves like Amazon buying Whole Foods and the changing marketplace for grocery co-ops are big. We’re seeing a lot of encroaching into the Co-op’s marketshare, with more people opting for delivery services, ordering groceries online, etc. Co-ops thrive because of their connections to the community, and having people come into the store and interact with each other. Owning it together is a huge benefit, as is having more of those face-to-face interactions. By moving to the online delivery space, people lose that. It will be a challenge for the Co-op to meet new expectations with the arrival of these sorts of businesses, while still showing the value of in-person interactions.