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East Store’s Closing in May; Board Elections; & More

Welcome to June! The 21st heralds the beginning of the Summer of 2015—may it be full of bright light, growth and togetherness for all of us. I’m looking forward to homemade popsicles, the upcoming neighborhood festivals, and plenty of long walks with my dogs and kids. How about you?

East Store’s may Closing 

Before looking to the month ahead of us, I want to discuss our decision to close Willy East on May 13th, 2015. As many of you know, on Tuesday, May 12th, the Dane County DA announced that the police officer who shot Tony Robinson, Jr. would not be indicted. Demonstrations were organized for that day and the following day, some of them very near to Willy East.

Our Co-op informed staff two weeks prior that we were talking with community groups and internally about what to expect and what we could do to support staff and the community on the day the County would make its announcement. On Monday, May 11th, a subset of the Co-op’s management team decided, after a long discussion and based on limited information we had at the time, to close Willy East on Wednesday. We had a few reasons for making this choice.

  • We felt we would support the community best if we postponed business as usual and reduced the number of cars in our lot. At one point we had heard that as many as 3,000 demonstrators might be gathering a block away, and eliminating traffic could have contributed to a safer experience.
  • We also anticipated that travel to and from the store may have been difficult for staff and that some staff may have wished to be with their families and the community at that time.
  • Some employees may have wanted to participate in the demonstrations. All staff scheduled to work had the option to work at another site if they wished.

By making the decision on Monday instead of waiting and closing if and when needed, we were able to cancel or delay deliveries, offer staff options, and get the word out to Owners.

Many of you provided feedback about this decision and our implementation of it, ranging from support for our decision to feeling that we were overreacting, from disappointment that demonstrators weren’t able to get food or use our bathrooms to requests that we donate water or food. We appreciate all of the feedback that we have received, because we will use this feedback to help us as we review our decisions and improve. I am sorry that our message was confusing and our plan was ineffective, and even disappointing to some of our Owners. While I truly believe our intention was good, there were a number of undesirable impacts for our community. This was an unprecedented event for us, and we acknowledge that there are things that we can and will do better. Thank you for your feedback—our Co-op is only as strong as its Owners, and your thoughtful observations and criticisms help us learn and grow. 

Board Elections

This month we will be introduced to our candidates for the 2015 Board Election! Voting will run from July 1st–21st, 2015, and you will have a chance to meet the candidates at the upcoming AMP on July 9th, 2015. 

Closing FY15 and Finalizing the Budget for FY16

This is the end of Fiscal Year 2015! The Board will approve a final budget for Fiscal Year 2016 at their June meeting.

I feel that it is my responsibility to inform Owners that the Co-op is ending FY15 with an anticipated loss of $700,000. Operating a profitable grocery co-op requires managing sales, margin, and personnel in the right proportions. Of every dollar of sales we need roughly 10¢ left after paying for cost of goods and personnel in order to make a small profit. In Fiscal Year 2015 we did not meet our sales goals, which in turn threw budgeted expenses out of alignment. We are now charged with balancing revenue with expenses. 

Budget planning for FY16 has been a more complicated task, with Festival Foods opening sometime this summer or fall and other market forces competing for your attention and grocery dollars. I am asking each of you to consider supporting your Co-op as you are able, maybe with an extra bunch of bananas or bag of coffee. As I mentioned before, the Willy Street Co-op is only as strong as its Owners—you really do own this business! For a more complete financial overview, be sure to come to the Annual Meeting & Party on July 9th, 2015.

Regent Market Co-op

Interested in supporting the growth of other Madison co-ops? The Regent Market Co-op just launched their Owner Bond drive to raise money for a store expansion project scheduled to start this summer. After residing over 90 years in the same space, Regent Market Co-op is in the process of purchasing the building and also expanding into the adjacent store front. The resulting expansion will nearly double the size of the retail and allow increased produce and product offerings as well as a chance to make energy efficient lighting and appliance updates. Please contact Jim or Kurt at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (608) 957-6801 for more information on how to purchase a bond.

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