Q: I recently learned of the poor conditions Driscoll’s employees are enduring and will no longer be purchasing their products. I would hope that Willy St would support efforts to send Driscoll’s a message that such poor treatment will not be tolerated by not continuing to sell their products. I was told 1% of owners need to speak up for change to occur so please add me to those who have already made complaints. Thank You.
A: Thanks for writing! You will definitely be counted toward the 1% of Owners needed to initiate an organization-wide boycott.
I am curious if there is new information regarding any Driscoll’s growers that you know of? I am aware of some major labor disputes that were in the news regarding two of the farms that supply Driscoll’s in 2015 and 2016, but as far as I know those have been settled and I haven’t heard anything since then regarding this issue.
Driscoll’s as a company does not own any farmland. They work with hundreds of independent growers to supply berries that are packed under their brand. I have personally visited several Driscoll’s suppliers, and talked to farm workers at these facilities, who are quite happy with their employers. Obviously this is not the case at all Driscoll’s suppliers.
In 2015 and 2016, there were two high-profile strikes and boycott efforts that targeted Driscoll’s, specifically at the Sakuma Brothers farm in Washington State, and BerryMex in Baja, Mexico. During this time Willy Street Co-op did not boycott Driscoll’s berries entirely, but we did ensure that we were not selling berries from either of the affected growers. We also worked with our supplier to be one of the first retailers in the U.S. to sell certified Fair Trade strawberries from Driscoll’s and other growers.
Both of the disputes described above were ultimately resolved, and the majority of workers returned to the fields, although I believe there are still some who feel that the concessions made were not enough and are continuing to urge a Driscoll’s boycott.
If there is more information that I should be aware of, I’d love to hear it, and your comment will definitely be counted toward that 1% of Owners.
Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Q: Hi! We heard there’s a promotion going on for recommending a friend for membership. We’d like to recommend our friend. Let us know if there’s something else we need to do in order to receive any premium available for this program.
A: I apologize for not being able to respond sooner. I see that your friend did end up signing up on Saturday and I will happily consider your message as an official referral. I assume that you are also shopping at the North location, and you will be able to pick your gift card within 4-6 weeks. One of our Brand Coordinators will contact you at this email address when it is ready to be picked up.
In the future, if you would like to refer any new owners, please instruct these folks to provide your full name and any contact info they have for you (owner #, phone number and/or email address) at the time of signing up at the Customer Service desk (or online). That’s all they need to do!
Thanks for providing the referral and we look forward to seeing you next time you are in the store!
-Robert Halstead, Owner Records Administrator
Q: I love kabocha squash. It is one of my favorite foods. However, I greatly prefer the green/grey varieties over the orange variety, which I believe is a “sunshine kabocha,” a kuri-kabocha cross. I may be misremembering, but I thought I purchased non-orange kabocha at Willy last year. I understand that squash season is only just beginning, but I am disheartened to see exclusively sunshine kabocha at the store. I sincerely hope that you stock the green/grey varieties as well.
A: Thanks for writing! I also love kabocha squash, and I think you are right—the green, and especially the grey varieties are really really good!
I will make sure Andy Johnston, the Produce Manager of Willy East’s team, is aware of your request. As you say, the season is just starting up so varieties are still a bit limited, but more are becoming available by the day. Oftentimes people who aren’t as aware of the subtle flavor differences are drawn to the bright color of the red kabocha, so that variety is the most widely grown and marketed. That said, we work with several winter squash growers, and I’m relatively confident that we’ll be able to get some green or grey kabocha at some point this year.
Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Store Closed Notices
Q: Dear Willy West: I shop regularly at Willy West, so I try to pay attention to construction notices. Yesterday, I arrived at the store expecting to shop, but then read the notice board announcing the store was closed. I realize that unexpected situations always arise during construction, but I’m wondering if the co-op considered sending an email to co-op owners about the store closing. I don’t follow the co-op on Facebook and I’m not in the habit of checking the web site, so I was surprised to find the co-op closed during regular business hours. And I wasn’t the only shopper who was not expecting a closed store. Thanks for reading my vent.
A: Thanks for emailing with your concern and suggestion!
I’m sorry to hear the store closing was a surprise—as you mentioned, we did talk about it on social media and the website, but also on in-store signage in the few weeks beforehand. We also put it in both the September and October newsletters—we’ll be discussing if there were additional ways (including an email) that we should get the word out if/when something like this happens again.
(Although there are no more store closures planned for Willy West during the construction work.) We have talked about emailing Owners about unusual store hours—particularly for non-holiday related reasons—but I don’t think we’ve done it so far. In the next year or so, I do plan to set up an opt-in email notification about unusual store hours, and your feedback has confirmed that it’s a need.
Thanks again for sharing your concern and suggestion—have a nice week!
– Brendon Smith, Communications Director
Meat & Seafood Shout Out
Q: Shout outs to the meat and seafood guys who are always helpful and friendly. Even going the extra mile to vacuum seal a steak, rather than wrap it, so I can put it straight in the sous vide bath. Thanks guys!
A: Thank you so much for taking the time to write in with your kind words for the folks in the meat and seafood departments. It’s always so nice to hear from customers, especially when it’s hearing about good customer service!
Best, Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator–West
Q: Yes—thank you for being a kind place of support after a very difficult cross-country move. Thank you for being a kind, non-judgmental place for my children to play while I ate breakfast and lunch.
A: What a lovely comment to receive. We thank you for taking the time to share it with us. It certainly feels nice to be appreciated and we are so glad that we can be a welcoming refuge for your family. We look forward to seeing you in the store again soon! –Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator–West
Q: As a loyal and enthusiastic member, I am concerned about open shelving for local products. Even Kwik Trip has closed containers/shelves. Willie should be conserving energy with closed storage.
A: Hello and thanks very much for your comment!
Though modern open merchandisers have become much more energy efficient, you are right that closed merchandisers save more energy by keeping refrigerated air more contained.
For this reason, when we replace old coolers we have been sourcing coolers with doors as much as possible. Willy North just replaced an old cooler with a closed door unit in Produce for packaged salads and cut fruits and vegetables, and the new beer cooler at Willy West will also have doors.
There are some instances where closed coolers unfortunately won’t work for us. When we recently replaced the packaged salad cooler at Willy East for example, we really wanted to get a cooler with doors, but because of the tight space at Willy East, we determined that having the doors open with people shopping from them would create a bottleneck in the store. In other cases, like for bulk and wet produce items, and the new cheese cooler at Willy West, there unfortunately aren’t closed-door coolers available that fit our merchandising needs.
That said, I definitely appreciate that Owners such as yourself are thinking about these things, and we will continue to do our best to find closed door and otherwise more efficient merchandising units as we replace older, less efficient coolers in our stores.
–Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
Q: It’s very hard to use the bulk bin in produce for the mixed greens/spinach because you need to hold the lid. How about adding a spring to help hold the lid up while I scoop? Thank you!
A: Hello, Thank you for your comment! I certainly hear you. The lids on those bins are not ideal, and we’ve considered a number of different solutions, none of which seem to be just right! We are going to remove the lids and see how that works! If nothing else, it should make it much easier for you and other customers to grab your greens! Let us know what you think.
Max Wilke, Produce Manager–West
Q: Stocking problem? Sassy Cow half-and-half is never in stock. North store has an alternate, we at West do not have an affordable alternative if there isn’t any in stock
A: Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback concerning finding the Sassy Cow half & half on a consistent basis. I agree that it is frustrating to not be able to procure and purchase the products that you would like.
I spoke with both of our dairy buyers about the situation. They shared that it can be difficult to obtain this product consistently from the distributor. They have been working on it and agree that they have run into challenges at times with keeping some of the Sassy Cow products stocked.
We would be happy to set aside and hold this product for you if you would care to give us a call before coming in. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to assist you.
Katie O’Connell-Jones, Onwer Resources Coordinator–West
Willy West Remodel
Q: Willy West—amazing job with keeping the store open as much as it was during construction. I can hardly imagine how much discussion and planning went into the staging of this multi-stop, comprehensive remodel. Well done!
A: Thank you so much for taking the time to write down your feedback. You are correct—many people spent a good amount of effort planning and meeting to make sure things progressed as smoothly as possible. I will be sure to share your comments with the expansion team.
–Katie O’Connell-Jones, Owner Resources Coordinator–West