Hello Willy Street Co-op Owners! 2017 heralded a significant amount of transition to the Board, with five new members joining this summer. I am so pleased to be authoring my first Reader article as a Board member, and to be using it to introduce you to another.
In July you elected Brian Anderson, along with Meghan Gauger, Jeannine Bindl, Evan Cameron and me (Stephanie Ricketts) to the Board. We’ll be profiling all of the new Board members in the coming months, starting with Brian!
Stephanie Ricketts (SR): What was your first memory of the Willy Street Co-op?
Brian Anderson (BA): I started shopping at the Co-op in the late ’70s, when I came to Madison for law school from ’77-’80. My first memory was going over to the Co-op, and checking it out to see what it had to offer. It wasn’t very convenientlylocated to me, but I still came back to shop from time to time. I was attracted to the whole co-op concept, and by the fact that then, and now, you can find things at Willy Street that you can’t buy anywhere else.
SR: How did you first learn about cooperatives, and what was the first co-op you joined?
BA: I’ve been a member of a credit union for a long time (so long that I can’t even pinpoint when I first became a member of a credit union.) I may have joined back in my college days. I left Madison a couple of times, and, after my wife and I moved back and had a less-than-ideal experience with a traditional bank a few years ago, we joined UW Credit Union. I have always liked the co-op concept, and on the financial side, I’ve liked credit unions and the way they always seem to do a better job of serving their members.
SR: What do you rely on Willy Street Co-op for?
BA: I rely on Willy Street to always find good, healthy food. I rely on the Co-op being able to continue to provide things that I like to eat that I can’t find at other stores. We all have certain favorite things that we like to eat or drink, and I’m no different in that respect. There are certain things that I love that I can only get at the Co-op.
SR: What are your top three favorite Willy Street Co-op foods?
BA: I always get my basics at the Co-op, like my produce and milk. I also have to have my Barbara’s Shredded Wheat, which are the perfect size to fitin my bowl each morning! I love craft beer, and Willy West has a good selection. I would like to see even more offerings of local craft beer. Lastly, I love cheese! I’m a cheese head, even though I didn’t grow up in Wisconsin. I like to check out the cheese selection at the Co-op each time I visit.
SR: Do you have any favorite food traditions?
BA: Most of my food traditions have come through my wife, Rozan, who is Jewish and has a long family history of food traditions. Even though I am not Jewish myself, I have come to love the foods that are eaten at certain times of the year, that are associated with certain Jewish holidays. I love latkes at Hanukkah time, and the fall apple cake associated with Rosh Hashanah, SR: Besides being a Willy Street Co-op Board member, what else do you like to do with your time?
BA: I’ve really gotten into biking! I bike whenever I can and wherever I can, which is a lot. I commute to work from Middleton, which is a little over eight miles a day (weather permitting), commute to errands, and also do some longer rides sometimes. I did Bike the Barns in September- it’s always fun to see the farms, eat some fresh foods, and check out the beautiful Wisconsin countryside. I’m not into racing, but I really enjoy getting out, getting exercise, and meeting people.
SR: What are you most excited about in being a new Board member, and what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges the Co-op will face over the next few years?
BA: I’m excited about being in a position of responsibility for such a fine organization. I think that the Co-op is well run, and I deem it an honor to help keep it well run. There are co-ops out there that have gone out of business or had financial issues, and it essentially comes down to whether or not they were managed well. Obviously, our co-op doesn’t have those problems, but if it weren’t well managed we could. We have a great GM and great Board members, and I am excited to participate in continuing its success.
For the organization, given how it’s grown, there are both challenges and opportunities for future growth. One of the things that could get a business into trouble is expanding too fast, taking on too much debt… so future expansion is both a challenge and an opportunity. I think the Willy Street should look for expansion opportunities in a very controlled and thoughtful way. I point to myself as an example—I wouldn’t have become a member, or a Board member, if the Co-op hadn’t expanded West. I live in Middleton, and if Willy Street hadn’t come to my neighborhood, I wouldn’t have felt the depth of connection that I do now. Similarly, there are other significant areas around the Madison metro where people feel that the three stores we have now aren’t close enough, or convenient enough, to them. We should be paying attention and growing in a very controlled and thoughtful manner, to serve those people without taking on too much debt.
SR: Is there anything else you’d like our Owners to know?
BA: I am excited to serve on the Board of Directors!