Grateful for the Commons
Q: Thank you for providing a space to hang out. Before of after shopping with art on the walls and newspapers to read. On a bleak October Day the fire was comforting too. THANKS!
A: Thank you so much for your kind words about our Commons Area. You are always welcome to spend time reading by the fire. -gianofer fields, Owner Resources Coordinator
Q: So I'm watching the show "Asia insight" from the Japanese NHK network and the show is about how the numbers of orangutans have been falling in Indonesia on the count of cutting down forests for palm oil plantations. Now the show said that some of the larger palm oil producers have pledged to cease developing new plantations as they've figured out how to get a better yield from existing land and in any case it's illegal under Indonesian law to develop land if it can be proven that orangutans are living on it. However illegal logging continues from smaller producers and of course Palm oil exports are a large part of the Indonesian economy making the problem difficult to solve. So my question is does the coop have anything with palm oil in it, I saw that the vegan buttery sticks have "Palm fruit" in them, and if so can we track the origins so that we're helping a developing economy without hurting Orangutans?
A: Thank you for your questions and comments! Palm oil sourcing has been an ongoing issue that we have been following closely. We do carry some products with palm oil in them and often manufacturers will change ingredients without telling us, so a few will show up in our stores. As part of our new product process, we have been asking manufacturers about their sourcing when we are thinking about adding something with palm oil in it. Thankfully many use sustainable palm oil and the movement is growing.
They work with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which has been a guiding light on solutions for the problem. It has not been an easy road and obviously many companies are resistant to change, because for them it is about cost of ingredients. One of the main problems is the traceability of the oil, due to it often just being pooled together by the buyers.
I think there is always room for improvement, so thank you for the reminder. I will share your concern with my coworkers and make sure we are all on the same page. Thank you for taking the time to write us.
Have a great day! -Dean Kallas, Grocery Category Manager
Willy Street Co-op Cookbook
Q: Hey WSC, you have so many food items, made in house, that indeed have wonderful flavors. I truly enjoy your healthful recipes. Any thoughts of offering a Willy recipe cookbook? Best Regards,
A: Thanks for your suggestion and the kind words! We have talked about putting out a cookbook, but we would need a way to streamline conversion of recipes currently scaled to food service sizes down to much smaller serving sizes. We recently had to scale down a few recipes for a media story and it took a surprisingly long time—between making the ingredient measurements reasonable (.12 pounds of cinnamon doesn't mean much to most home cooks) to rewriting the directions to make sense for a home kitchen, it would take us quite a while to do this. We are interested in finding a system to more quickly convert recipes, but haven't had luck so far. We will keep this idea on the back burner (so to speak)—we've gotten other requests for it and would like to do it some day! Thanks again, and have a wonderful week. –Brendon Smith, Communications Director
Q: I was going to run errands with my car this morning, about 9 am. stopping at the coop on the way. I got there and half of the parking lot was blocked up for truck use. And there were no spots open in the small section that was available for owners. I've worked on a loading dock unloading 18 wheelers that had a lot less space to maneuver than the coop dock. Why aren't the trucks coming at an earlier time so the lot is open? I've been an owner since the late 1900s and have never seen this mess.
A: I want to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. This was a difficult situation for both customers and staff and we are thankful that our customers were willing to move their vehicles.
We do ask semis to deliver before 9:00am to avoid congestion in the lot. The majority of the time semi deliveries happen well before the store is open. On Monday, however, our main supplier, which usually arrives around 5:00am, was running several hours late due to a snow storm in Racine. Since we get so much of our product from this vendor, it was critical that we accepted the delivery in order to avoid out of stocks on a number of products.
Normally, we can get away with only blocking off the row of parking spaces closest to Willy St, but this particular driver was not comfortable backing in to our dock until we also blocked off the spaces on the Willy St. side of the center island. The driver was accustomed to delivering early in the morning when the parking lot is empty. From what we’ve seen in the past it comes down to how experienced the driver is. If there is doubt we err on the side of caution.
This was a very challenging situation for both customers and staff. We do our very best to mitigate congestion in our parking lot, deliveries or otherwise, but on occasion challenges arise that are outside of our control.
Thankfully, situations like this are relatively rare. While we can’t predict the future, we hope you’ll be able to go another 20+ years without seeing this happen again! Have a great day!
-Matt McHugh, Logistics Director
Q: Hi, I like your store and stop at Willy St. Coop quite often. I have a serious issue with your chips. About half of them have dairy. I have completely cut dairy products out of your diet for health and environmental reasons. So, now I have to spend about 15 minutes or more every time I shop for chips, because about 25% of them have dairy in them. Please keep your dairy chips separate. Also, my friends who are vegan have the same problems when buying chips. If you would separate out the dairy vs. non-dairy chips, I'd appreciate it a lot.
A: Thanks for writing! I completely understand your frustration with ingredient reading—it can be really time consuming for anyone who is actively avoiding specific ingredients.
Unfortunately, I don't think re-merchandising our chips is feasible for us. Manufacturers often change ingredients without warning us, so even if we did move them around, you would still have to look at the ingredient lists to be sure things hadn't changed since we audited them. Also, because we have lots of different shoppers with different dietary restrictions and preferences, if we re-merchandised to suit one (vegan for example), it could make it harder or seem exclusionary to others (for example gluten-free folks), to shop. In the end, we have found that merchandising by brand and type of chip is the easiest way for the most customers to choose the chips they are looking for.
I wonder if you've tried any of the apps that are designed to make shopping easier for folks on a vegan diet? There's one called "Is It Vegan" for example, that allows you to scan the UPC of groceries and it gives you a quick answer about the products' suitability to a vegan diet. That type of thing could probably help cut down on your ingredient list reading time.
I hope this is helpful, and I'm truly sorry that we can't accommodate this request. Best, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Disgusting trash can
Q: The trash can next to the cash machine smells disgusting. How about emptying it??
A: Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Sorry if we missed it. I have mentioned it to maintenance to make sure it gets emptied daily. –Amanda Ikens, Owner Resources Coordinator—East
Q: What would it take to get beer in growlers with return on empties?
A: I spent some time looking into this, but at this time we do not have the space or capacity to handle this type of set up. I appreciate your suggestions! Thank you for your ideas! –Dean Kallas, Grocery Category Manager
Q: It totally sucks when the clamshell is $4 cheaper than the bulk loose greens! ($1.50 for spinach) but are CA produce at the moment.
A: Hello! I’m guessing you are referring to the 1 lb salad clamshells versus the bulk. Because the 1 lb packages are on our Co-op Basics program, they are priced lower than the other salads.
It is counterintuitive, however, because the bulk salad mix is open to the air, we experience quite a bit of product loss due to the wilt. For this reason, we have to price the bulk a bit higher. The 1 lb clamshells keep the product for longer. Also, because they are a larger size, we are able to keep the price low due to the volume (just as a larger can of beans is less expensive per bean vs. a small can of beans). Thanks for writing! Best, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Q: I propose serving tiny, bite-size morsels of cheese on a plate w/ a roll. 5-9 different kinds so shoppers don’t have to spend $7 to find out if they like the cranberry and cinnamon goat cheese. I think it would be a great way to introduce people to many new flavors. Plates would cost $4-$6 approx. Each day introduces new cheeses.
A: Thanks for your comment! I agree that it’s a huge bummer to have to spend so much just to try a cheese that you are not sure you’re going to like. At all Willy Street locations we are happy to open up a sample of anything you’re interested in buying to see if you’ll like it at no charge to you. If you'd like a larger hunk to try we also have a cheese niblet bin in the deli and in the cheese case so that people can take small hunks of cheese home to see if they like it, these hunks typically run from $1 to $4 depending on the cheese. I also like your idea of making something more presentable, and based towards snackers, such as yourself. I’ll keep this in mind as we continue to develop new ideas for our Cheese dept. Thanks! -Dustin Skelley, Deli Manager—East
Salad Bar Dressings
Q: Please have Annie’s Salad Dressing at the salad bar. I only was able to get a sesame ginger dressing and it was VERY DISAPPOINTING! No ginger taste. Too much sesame oil! Also- NO cucumber slices left! Pls. periodically REFILL! Those slices disappear fast!!
A: Sorry you didn’t like our salad dressing selection on the salad bar. I will admit that we had a poor selection for a while in early October. Our main salad dressing supplier is out of stock and has been for the month of October; unfortunately we didn’t realize this until a week or so of being out of stock.
Unfortunately, I will not be bringing on Annie’s salad dressing for the foreseeable future. They stopped making all of their dressings in food service packaging, meaning I would have to buy 8oz glass bottles. We would go through dozens of these each day; this would be so much unnecessary waste and would also be really frustrating for staff to stay on top of.
On the bright side, we did start making our own salad dressings at east. We’re using olive oil in all the dressings as opposed to sunflower/safflower oil that is used in our dressings now, we’re also using fresh herbs! Our flavors for the fall/winter will be Sage Vinaigrette, Maple Mustard Vinaigrette, Buttermilk Herb, Blueberry Vinaigrette, and Balsamic Vinaigrette. We’ll still be offering our Cilantro and Basil Pesto as well as Sesame Ginger. Please let me know if there are any particular flavors you’d like to see and we’ll see what we can do. -Dustin Skelley, Deli Manager—East
Sticky Squeeze bottles
Q: Note: Every day I enjoy coffee at the Co-op and it’s good. The part that I don’t like is getting sticky all over my hands from the squeeze bottles. Please replace with a plastic container with a thumb release and it will be so much better. Thank you! Peace!
A: Thanks for making me aware of this issue. I have already ordered new thumb release pourers for the Juice Bar and they should be arriving soon. Cheers, Dustin Skelley, Deli Manager–East
Fair trade chocolate
Q: I am delighted with the increasing offerings of fair-trade chocolate, now including Halloween candy as well as Chanukah gelt and advent calendars. Also, chocolate milk and brownie mix! Thanks!
A: Thanks for writing to voice your appreciation of our fair trade chocolate offerings! Supporting the fair trade supply chain is extremely important to us, and it's always great to know that our Owners appreciate this part of our mission as well. -Best, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Not a muffin
Q: COMMENT ONE: To make the GF Monkey Muffin less sweet. This product looks better than it actually tastes. It’s not a muffin. It’s a sickly sweet cupcake. The problem is the frosting. I always get seduced by how it looks and then I feel sick to my stomach after I eat it. I get nauseous just thinking about it.
COMMENT TWO: Monkey Muffin Apology for initial critique: Yesterday I wrote a rather harsh critique on the Monkey Muffin being too sweet. I thought about it and realized that everyone has a different threshold for sweetness. Sorry I ripped on the muffin and called it a cupcake. But could you a healthier GF muffin?
A: My name is Mike Tomaloff, and I am a supervisor at the Co-op Production Kitchen, where we produce the Monkey Muffins, and a lot of other items offered at the Co-op’s Deli and bakery.
I am looking at your customer comment notes as I write this, and I have to say yours are unique in my experience, in that until now I had never seen a follow up comment sent to apologize for an initial comment! Well, to that I say apology accepted, but I also must say that you needn’t apologize for your personal preferences. It’s your hard earned money spent at a store at which you are counted among the Owners, and thus your opinion is valued and your criticisms are certainly heard.
The cupcake impersonating a muffin: it’s a ruse as old as health consciousness! Ice cream disguised as frozen yogurt, foods with healthy sounding words on the packaging, “bite-sized” anything (like we’re only going to eat one of them, ha!). I agree; the Monkey Muffin is a rich confection, topped with sweet buttercream frosting, and thus may better be described as a cupcake. I did some research and there are plenty of opinions on what makes a muffin not a cupcake, and vice versa, and frankly it boils down to “I know it when I see it.” I see it, it’s a cupcake. I’m sorry you feel the buttercream is too sweet; as a fan of savory flavors over sweet I am sympathetic. The bakery here has been tweaking recipes of late, I will be sure to bring this to their attention, in fact they may have addressed this already. If you’re looking for a healthier and less sweet gluten-free breakfast option, I recommend the gluten-free pumpkin apple muffin, or any of our gluten-free scones, the recipes for which have all been revisited recently and, in my opinion, are better than they have ever been. Warmest regards, -Mike Tomaloff, Kitchen Supervisor
Potato Corn Chowder
Q: Oh. My. Hell. Please, please, please, please, PLEASE keep making the potato corn chowder in rotation in the Deli. It’s so good, flavorful, and overall simple and not overloaded with ingredients (which is how all good food should be). Nice work!
A: We got your note regarding the potato corn chowder staying on the menu, and after that, how could we even consider dropping it? It really is nice to hear such positive feedback about the food we produce.
That soup will be on for the winter months at the very least, but at some point it will come off rotation. Hopefully you will find another soup that you like by then, but in case you don’t, I have included a home version of the recipe. As you rightly pointed out, it is a simple one without a lot of fuss and bother. I appreciate your observation, as well, that good food is inherently simple; more isn’t always better! Sincerely, -Mike Tomaloff, Kitchen Supervisor