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Community Postings

Hello, I am a member of the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society and helping with the promotion of our event. I was wondering if I could hang a flyer at all 3 locations? Thanks.

A: You’re more than welcome to hang flyers on the community posting boards as long as they fit the criteria listed here:

  1. The posting date must be written in the corner of the poster/flier (event dates do not meet this requirement).
  2. Only one poster/flier may be posted per organization per event.
  3. Poster/flier cannot depict slogans or images denoting profanity, hate speech, or sexually explicit content.
  4. Please place business cards in the business card binder and pamphlets and postcards in the racks provided.
  5. Posters/fliers will be left on the board for one month. Co-op Services staff and Managers on Duty maintain this board, and remove posters/fliers after they have been up for one month.
  6. If a poster/flier does not meet the Co-op’s posting criteria, it is subject to removal.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Best regards, Liz Hawley, Cooperative Services

Cabbage price

Q: Shopped for cabbage to make sauerkraut earlier today—pretty shocked and disturbed to find the cost of a head of organic cabbage to exceed 10.00. Needless to say, I did not buy it. Makes me wonder where else we are getting price gouged rather than enjoying benefits of cooperative ownership. Might you consider pricing your cabbage more affordably for your members?

A: Thanks for writing! I definitely understand your concern, and I’m sorry that you feel that you are being price gouged. 

The green cabbage we are selling currently is grown locally by small, certified organic farmers. We always try to get the best price possible from our farmers; however, we also make sure that we’re paying them a price that allows them to sustainably run their business, give their workers a fair wage, and maintain their organic certification. This sometimes results in a higher price than, say, a non-local and/or non-organic product from a very large farm. 

As a retailer, we have to add a certain margin on to the price we pay our farmers in order to pay our staff a living wage, and the rest of our bills. When all is said and done, on a good year, we make about one percent profit overall, some of which is returned to Co-op Owners in the form of a patronage rebate. 

I have a few suggestions for you if you’re looking to get a better price on locally grown, organic cabbage. 

For sauerkraut, you are probably looking for a large quantity, but if you want a smaller amount of cabbage with a smaller price tag, we can always cut one for you. Just ask a Produce clerk, it’s something we do all the time. Often times local cabbage grows to be really large, which translates to a high price per cabbage, even at a reasonable per-pound price. 

If you want to make a large amount of kraut, we offer a 10 percent case discount for Owners if you pre-order a case (typically 45 lb. for cabbage). 

Generally, buying directly from farmers will give you the best price for locally grown produce. Since there’s no middleman, they are able to offer a better price than we can. I’dsuggest visiting a farmers’ market to see what kind of pricing you can find there. 

I hope this is helpful. Thanks again for writing, and let me know if you have any additional concerns. Best Regards, Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing

Tonic water ingredients

Q: Hello—I don’t usually buy tonic, so when I was in recently I just grabbed one thinking it’s water. At home as we sat to drink it I took a glance at the bottle and saw it has HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP in it, yuck! Who thought you would have to look at the tonic WATER and watch for cancer causing ingredients and “natural flavors.” I really wish MY coop could put a ban on any product that contains HFCS. There are multiple studies that show it actually feeds cancer cells and makes them multiply. Please consider this. 

A: Thanks for the feedback. I definitely understand your concern. 

Though we do try to stay away from many products with high fructose corn syrup and other controversial ingredients, as a consumer owner Co-op, our overall directive is to carry products that our Owners want to buy. Schweppes tonic water is one of those products. We also carry Q Tonic, which is a tonic water that does not include HFCS. Q Tonic is quite a bit more expensive than Schweppes, so at this time we carry both brands in order to offer a more affordable option for those who are looking for it.

Per our boycott policy, if we hear from one percent of our Ownership that they would like us to boycott a particular product or ingredient (like HFCS), we will open an official comment period which may lead to an organization-wide boycott. Your comment will be counted toward that one percent. 

Thanks again for writing! Best, Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing

Willy North Product Selection

Q: First, let me just say thank you for coming to the North side of Madison. The presence of a new grocer in the neighborhood is greatly appreciated. As a member-owner of another local business I am pleased to see a cooperative business model moving in less then a block from the home I rent on Sherman Ave. Your new location is ideal for me to walk or bike to. I plan on becoming a member-owner of your Cooperative in the next week or so. 

I did want to express my concerns however after visiting your store for the first time last night. When it was announced that the Cooperative would be moving into the old Pierces location there was some concern that given the mixed socioeconomic nature of the neighborhood that you have moved into that you may, put simply, price some neighbors out of the store. These concerns were largely alleviated by the announcement that you would be stocking items not traditionally stocked in your other stores. If I remember correctly that was to be 15-20% of your stock. You did also provide people in the neighborhood with information on the benefits of purchasing bulk items, which I greatly appreciate. 

However, when I walked into the store I was greatly disappointed in the amount and variety of traditional and affordable options. I did notice that in each section you made available a few options but there was simply no variety or middle level option for the working poor like myself. For example you did carry a dozen eggs for seventy nine cents. The next cheapest option was, if memory serves, $2.45. There was also only the one option of “affordable” eggs. 

May I respectfully request that you work on creating several tiers of ALL items so that consumers have more choice and can still afford to shop at your store? I appreciate the Cooperatives focus on high quality food items but I am particularly concerned for those neighbors who are on limited SNAPbenefits and simply can’t afford not to make their food dollars count. 

I understand that you will have a limited amount of space for stock in the store and adding several tiers of options may require more space. In order to address this may I suggest that you remove what someone in my economic situation may consider luxury items? In particular I noticed when visiting the store that you carried very beautiful designer soap that was priced at about $18 a bar. I was offended to see that item in a grocery store in my neighborhood. Many of us who live on The North Side are the working poor and to be reminded that some people are able to spend that kind of money on soap really did feel like a slap in the face. 

Once again let me say thank you for filling the void left when Pierces left the neighborhood. You are providing a valuable service for all of the residents of the area. 

A: Thanks for writing, I really appreciate that you took the time!

I oversee our team of Category Managers who are in charge of selecting and pricing all of the products at our stores, and I myself am in charge of product selection and pricing in our produce departments. I think you make some really good points, and we’ll definitely take them into account as we move forward with Willy North product selection. 

Since this store is so different from our existing two stores, the initial product selection was a bit of a stab in the dark for us. We knew going in that we wouldn’t get everything right away, and we really appreciate any feedback we get (including yours!) so we can make adjustments where needed. 

A few things about the particular items you called out:

Eggs: Are there any particular brands of eggs that you buy elsewhere that you’d like to see? What would be (for you) a good price in between 79¢/dozen and $2.49/dozen? 

Are there other mid-level brands or products that you’d like to see that we aren’t carrying? Any specifics you can give would be great!

Soap: The soap that you are referring to is actually priced by the pound, not the bar. It’s $18/lb, which translates to about $5/bar. We are currently working to make some signage that makes this clearer, and I apologize for the confusion. 

Thanks again for the feedback, I really appreciate it and hope to see you shopping at Willy North again soon!! Best, Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing

Product Mix at North

Q: I am writing because of something I read in the WSJ yesterday in the article on Willy St North. I am dismayed and disappointed to see that you are selling Shurfine eggs for $.79 a dozen. Certainly, the chickens laying those eggs are treated horribly and pumped full of awful antibiotics. I thought the co-op had a higher ethical standard and I’m angry that my money is indirectly supporting abuse. Furthermore, I also read that Willy St North is selling Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, they are neither nutritious or affordable. Shame on the co-op for playing into the cheap foods trend. All of this is making me reconsider shopping at the co-op.

A: Thank you for sharing your input. We have been reporting each month since February in the Reader and through the community and the press that the intention in opening Willy North was to serve the northside community, just as Willy East serves the eastside and Willy West serves the westside and Middleton. When the community approached the Co-op to move in after Pierce’s left the north side, they requested that we become a WIC-authorized vendor and that conventional products remain a part of the services available. In March, we reported that our plans were to review the sales at the previous grocer, reach out to the neighborhood for feedback, and start with aproduct mix that includes products the neighborhood currently enjoys in addition to what we already offer at our other locations. In April, we began a receipt collection drive, and requested that people planning to shop Willy North send us receipts from other stores, as a way of letting us know what they purchase elsewhere that they wanted to see at our store, and we received over 4,000 items to review. That is how some of the items, such as Pop-Tarts, arrived on our shelves. As people get used to our store, it will be interesting to see how shopping habits will modify what we will end up carrying (or not carrying) in the long run. 

Some of the conventional items in the store, such as the Shurfine eggs, are there due to the WIC program’s strict product lists and products that we are required to keep stocked at various levels. We agree: the criteria for WIC approved eggs is unfortunate. Their booklet says “Allowed: white, any grade, any size; 1 dozen carton. Not Allowed: brown eggs, vegetarian, organic, natural, from cage-free or free-range chickens; low cholesterol, reduced fat; increased vitamin E (for example Eggland’s Best) or any other modified or specialty eggs; pasteurized in shell, hard-boiled.” We are hoping that once we are authorized in early September we can begin working with WIC to review some of the criteria, and see if we can find eggs that are priced right in the eyes of the WIC program and may not have the cage-free/free-range ban. I am not sure what it would take to change their rules and what parts of the rules are implemented at the State or Federal levels, and I’m hoping we will learn more through participation. All in all, there are significant community benefits to making it possible for WIC shoppers to do all their grocery shopping at the Co-op, in the neighborhood of their choice (the former grocer was #4 in WIC sales for stores our size city-wide). Because of that, we needed to make some compromises. As we say on the big sign at the entrance, this is a work in progress, and we will take all feedback into account as we determine how Willy North develops.

Please let us know if you have further questions. You may review the authorized foods list WIC provides here: -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services

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