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Customer Comments



We welcome your comments and give each one attention and serious consideration. Send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (link sends e-mail) or fill out a Customer Comment form in the Owner Resources area. Each month a small selection is printed in the Reader. The rest can be found in the commons or in the binder near Customer Service. Thank you!


170Chad Winter 2018

Parking problems

Q: Parking a car at Willy Street on most days—particularly Saturdays—can be quite challenging. 
Case in point: the yellow zebra stripes next to the handicap parking space opposite the ATM. Somehow it seems less enlighten visitors feel it is ok to park in that yellow-striped area to use the ATM. That space is there so that a person in a handicap parked vehicle or van has room to exit and/or enter their vehicle. Today a car squeezed in the yellow zone inches from ours and so we had to wait for that car to leave the prohibited space before we were able to get into our car. by having your flashing lights on while illegally parked just signals how arrogant and rude a person you are.

The coop needs to do more to make people aware of restricted parking areas and when necessary have City Parking issue violations.

A: Thank you for sharing your concerns about customers parking in inappropriate spaces in our lot. Our lot is challenging and we do our best to monitor the lot and address parking issues when they come up. We have contacted the City of Madison to ticket offenders, but oftentimes they leave before parking enforcement arrives. If you notice an issue or have a problem, please stop by customer service and let them know so our Manager on Duty can handle the situation.

Sincerely, Kristin Esselstrom, Willy East Store Director


Discount produce packaging

Q: Forgive me because I seem to have owner-number amnesia unless I am in the co-op building itself! Anyways, just wanted to see if there are any alternative measures we could try for the discount produce bins. I do my best to re-use the plastic bags when I can, but it just seems like there could be a better way. Maybe small re-useable baskets that can be dropped at the checkout counter and bagged there if needed? It would also be great if those little tape closures got replaced with twist ties too. Just thinking of ways to reduce plastic usage at our beloved coop. Thanks for all you do!

A: Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

We’ll see what is available for alternatives. Whether it’s a plastic bag or another product, we want to contain the discount produce as much as possible to avoid a mess! Because we are selling those products at a loss to the Co-op, we need to minimize the labor that goes into maintaining the service. And, while plastic bags may not be the most environmentally friendly option, they’re incredibly effective for our needs: customers can see what is in them, and they contribute to keeping the area clean.

I’ve received several similar comments recently, and will work with our management team to see if we can find an acceptable alternative to the plastic bags.

Thanks, Andy Johnston, Produce Manager—East


Water Stations

Q: Hello Willy West. I am excited about the upcoming renovations to the co-op. Inquiring whether a fast fill water station will be included in the renovation? This would be a great add and would help eliminate additional plastic bottle waste. 

A: Thanks for asking! We do plan to have a counter-top bottle filling station in the new commons at West. Please let us know if you have any other questions! Have a great day. 

-Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director



Q: Hello, I recently reached out to the co-op to inquire about who supplied the co-op’s wheatgrass. I was informed that it was supplied through supercharge and given a lot of positive information about them. I recently heard through supercharge that you will no longer be using there wheatgrass and was wondering why? Is the new supplier also local? I would love to learn about the change and new supplier. Thank you.

A: Thank you for writing, we have recently made a change in our wheatgrass supplier. We are now sourcing our wheatgrass from Vitruvian Farms in McFarland, WI ( (link is external)). SuperCharge has been and will continue to be a great partner. I have never met anyone who is as knowledgeable and passionate about what they do as the folks at SuperCharge.
We decided to make the change because we had the opportunity to switch to a certified organic wheatgrass at the same price per flat of wheatgrass, that in our tests produced more juice per flat of grass. This allowed us not to have to raise the price of our wheatgrass while still managing to support a local farmer.

Thank you, Jeremy Johnson, Meat and Specialty Category Manager



Water Only

Q: I appreciate your new practice of using “water only” to demonstrate essential oil diffusers. I hope this applies to each Willy St. Co-op location. Though the use of essential oils has health benefits, the fragrance can be harmful to respiratory tracts. It is also overwhelming to the olfactory system of others when someone overdoes it’s application on their body and clothing.

A: Thanks for writing! I’m glad that the changes we’ve made to displaying our essential oil diffusers is working out well for you. I’ve made sure to let the General Merchandise managers at each location know that you appreciate the water-only practice. We look forward to seeing you at the store again soon! Have a great weekend.

-Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director


Total members

Q: How many members total since creation? Just curious, thanks.

A: Thanks for asking such an interesting question! It would be challenging to give you an exact answer and guarantee it would be correct. Over the last 44 years the way in which we have kept records has changed hands several times, and we switched from manual to electronic records at some point as well. Not only have the people keeping records and the means of keeping the records changed, but, about 20-25 years ago we also had a brief practice of recycling retired Owner numbers instead of issuing new ones with each new Ownership. This means that at least some of our lower Owner numbers were issued at least twice (the practice of recycling owner numbers has long been abandoned).

That said, we had 113,407 records in our electronic database on March 21 when we checked this out. After subtracting records such as non-voting/non-equity business account records, cancelled records (meaning the record was started and either not completed or started by mistake), a few records we have for newsletter subscriptions, some generic records (such as the Owner number we use to add reciprocity benefits for customers who belong to other grocery co-ops), and then rounding down to keep the estimate conservative, we’d say that there have been at least about 112,000 Co-op Owners throughout our time. Please let us know if you have any other questions. Have a great day!

-Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director


Volunteer opportunities

Q: Do in-store volunteer work opportunities (still) exist?

A: Thanks for thinking of us. It’s been many years since we’ve had a volunteer program, but we are currently recruiting for our Board of Directors. If you are interested, you can find more details about how to get involved at We also recommend to those looking for a food-related volunteer opportunity near Willy East contacting one of the two food pantries we partner with in the area: Fritz Food Pantry at Goodman Community Centeror the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. The East Side Farmers Market also accepts volunteers.It’s possible that some of the organizations that participate in the Community CHIP program through Community Shares of Wisconsin accept volunteers as well. If you are looking to get involved with the operations of the Co-op, please visit our employment page on our website to learn how to apply. Please let us know if you have further questions and we can try to see what we can do for you. Have a great day!

-Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director



Q: I’ve enjoyed the historical perspective Ben Becker has brought recently to the newsletter on nutritionism and the growth of the natural foods supermarket industry. In the former he glossed over how our sedentary lifestyle has played a role in desire to micromanage our caloric intake in the past century. In the latter he completely excluded the role of consumer demand in creating the economies of scale that favor big chains with hyper-efficient logistics operations. In other words, when we all expect to get anything we want when we want it, packaged to ship across rivers, valleys, and oceans, we create the space for big companies to take over, like they have with many of the beloved organic brands. I guess we reap what we sow, or rather, what we didn’t sow.

A: I just wanted to take a moment to reply to you regarding your customer comment included above. First off, thank you for reading! It is exciting to know that customers find our feature articles engaging, especially when thinking about food. No doubt, our food system is driven by the choices consumers make. With the continued support from those shopping here at Willy Street Co-op making the choice to purchase local and sustainable foods, we can certainly take heart in knowing that the community believes in promoting our regional food economy by bringing the fruits of sustainable, equitable practices to their table!

I hope you will continue to enjoy the Co-op Reader.

-Ben Becker, Executive Assistant and Feature Writer


Helpful staff

Q: I just wanted to express appreciation for a very knowledgeable and helpful staff member at the meat counter at Willy North. He’s helped me twice with recommendations for types and cuts of fish and beef, Most recently (4/7) he gave a good recommendation for beef to sub for pork in a taco recipe and they turned out great, despite my lack of confidence around cooking meat. Thanks!

A: Thanks for the compliment! I’ve shared it with the Meat department at North and our employees to enjoy. Glad to hear you enjoyed your tacos! Have a great week.

-Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director


Hang loose

Q: Just curious, could we have a “The 60s Ruled” sale with retro prices one day of the year?

A: I’m hip to the idea, but only on the products that were around then, dig? I’ll get on the horn and run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. Hang loose!

-Brendon Smith, Communications Director

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