How did I first learn about Cooperatives?
I joined the Outpost Co-op in Milwaukee over 35 years ago and that was my first experience with a co-op. It seemed like a good way to run a business and the food they had was excellent.
What have I learned about the Willy Street Co-op after the first few months on the Board that I didn’t know as an Owner?
I didn’t know how extremely dedicated and committed the Board, management and staff are to helping the Co-op be successful and help the community. As an Owner I would only see the externalities (great food, service and giving back to the community). Now I see the hard work that goes into the meetings and planning sessions. I also didn’t know how much fun it would be walking with other Co-op folks and giving healthy candy to kids and adults in the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival Parade. The parade watchers made many good comments about the Co-op. I also have seen a strong sense of “family” amongst the Board and staff. They both see the Co-op as their business “home” and want it to succeed. As a member of the finance committee it is great to be working with so many dedicated non-Board Owners in a very professional manner.
What do I see as the biggest opportunities and challenges that the Co-op faces in the next few years?
The biggest opportunities are in the business and social responsibility areas. On the business side is the possibility of opening a third store and giving more folks the opportunity to shop local, eat fresh and organic food. This has the effect of helping our local producers, reducing the total carbon footprint, improving health and helping the world be a better place. This “helping the world be a better place” is really for me the true essence of what the Willy Street Co-op is all about.
On the social responsibility side, the Co-op wants to continue being an employer of choice for our staff. That means fair wages, benefits and providing an inclusive and appreciative environment for our great staff. I have always believed that it is good staff who enjoy what they do that have the greatest positive impact on customers coming back again and again. As I said earlier I think we have great staff! We also have a continuing opportunity to give back to our community through helping community causes. CHIP and other donations directly help our community.
I think our biggest challenge is the continued expansion of larger box grocery stores geographically and their offering more and more organic foods. To the consumer this organic food may seem the same as the Co-op’s but many times it is not local and not as fresh as ours.
What are my favorite food traditions?
I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and in Sheboygan brats, beer, cheese and bakery were the staples. Johnsonville brats, Kingsbury beer (made in Sheboygan), local bakery and cheese were plentiful. Weber grills were everywhere and beer-marinated brats was the way to make them. Fresh cheese curds that squeaked when you bit into them were a normal treat. We had bakery with names such as mud pies, longjohns, twisters and elephant ears. It also was well known among cardiologists that Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties were known as the “gold coast” since they had more people per capita with heart related problems than anywhere else in Wisconsin. I wonder why!! My eating habits have changed greatly since growing up in Sheboygan.
What are my favorite three Willy Street Co-op foods?
The first is Eastside Ovens’ vegan pecan cinnamon roll. I will sometimes stop in just to get one. That dab of white frosting right in the middle of the roll is delicious!!!! The second is the roasted garlic on the salad bar. I love their salad bar and all the great ingredients. The third is the cauliflower/yogurt/potato curry on the hot food bar. It is great.
We have a great Co-op that is doing a lot of things to make this world a better place. It is a privilege to serve on its Board and I thank all the Owners for the opportunity to do so.