Ann Doody was Willy Street Co-op’s General Manager from 1984 to 1985. Coming full circle, she is now a vendor providing us with her new greeting card line. She splits her time between Colorado and Wisconsin and, with no shortage of botanical fodder for her art, she has transformed her portfolio of watercolor paintings into a beautiful collection of cards.
After leaving the Co-op in 1985, Ann became a successful graphic designer and then went on to become president and owner of Techline, an office design and planning provider. Ann says of her return to art and illustrating, “My 20-year stint in business ended suddenly with a diagnosis of ovarian and uterine cancer. After a year of surgery and chemo, I started over. And doing my art was something that seemed healing.”
Before starting her latest, one-woman business a year and a half ago, Ann found her two children grown and on their own and she only had herself to please. She says, “As a very young person…I had always wanted to be an artistand a ski bum. So, I drove out to Colorado and got a job as a ski instructor. Not expecting it to necessarily last…and maybe even as a way to get away from the cancer, that was almost five years ago. [Now] I am an artist and a ski bum…at least for now,” she says.
A brief historic interlude
After earning a BS in Medical Illustration from Ohio State in the early 1980s, Ann worked briefly in the field, then eventually found herself in Champaign, Illinois where she had her first taste of cooperative governance as a Board member of a local food co-op. By the mid 1980s, married with two small children, Ann and her family moved to Madison and began seeking a new grocery cooperative. “I was just signing up to be a member,” Ann recalls, “and they asked me if I would be general manager, and I did need a job…so, in a short time I took the job. The co-op was desperate and so was I. At the time the wages were all even and the store had become complex, so it was probably not easy to find someone who had the skills to be GM and be paid minimum wage.” Later, Ann adds, “When I took the job as GM, I learned everything on the job. I [got] much of my business training from my year at the co-op and still I say thank you. It [is] an important part of the Co-op that people can get practical training without a perfect educational background.”
Another incentive for urgency during that time in our Co-op’s history, in addition to a lingering vacancy in the GM position, was the eagerly awaited expansion of the 1202 Williamson Street building (Clyde’s side), which was ready to go architecturally, but still lacked financial means. “The money had to be raised and the store needed a GM,” Ann recalls, “The expansion was going to cost around $100,000, which was a fortune then and our sales went from $2 million to $4 during my time. The expansion added a wall of walk-in coolers and a deli prep area. I remember going to Common Wealth Development and proposing the project and getting a great big loan from them, so they must have believed it would work. It was a very successful expansion—on time and on budget but it was extremely stressful.”
“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” -Andy Warhol
Kathleen Kemnitz, the Co-op’s General Merchandise Buyer says, “When I first started, Ann was the first vendor I was introduced to in training. I was nervous; she was great. We soon discovered we are both a bit quirky and were quickly able to be ourselves with each other. She helped me ease into card sales and taught me some of what she has learned in her journey from artist to card producer.”
Committed to featuring only locally made cards like Ann’s, Kathleen says, “[Ann’s] combo of professionalism and being part of the Madison (and Co-op) community keeps me determined to keep all card vendors local. So few products are made in the [U.S.] these days, much less in Wisconsin (or Madison), that it is an easy choice to continue this tradition. My only trouble is, with all the local card artists, I have too many to choose from.”
Sold in packs and individually, Ann says “Each card has a little story on the back. I’ve found the whole process for original art-to-card concept, and design and sales and marketing are a real challenge. I am learning a lot and see there’s so much more to learn.”
Ann credits Beth Erlanson at Silverline Digital on Madison’s west side for assisting her on website design (www.anndoody.com) and print production. Of their initial collaboration, Ann says, “I decided to make cards out of some of my paintings for a neighborhood 4th of July art show and Beth helped me do it. The response was positive, so I took the cards to local stores and the business took off. UPC codes were added and packaging has been redesigned a few times to accommodate displays.
“The cards are printed on demand, as per order, so there is no waste or warehousing,” Ann explains. “Stores keep only minimal—if any—inventory, so it’s quite efficient. The Co-op orders from my web site and the cards are printed within a week and delivered, usually by me when I am getting my groceries.”
Summarizing her experiences with Willy Street Co-op and her newest role as a vendor, Ann remarks, “Relationships are important in co-ops and making good things happen for ourselves and our communities. I get a lot of energy from people around me, especially when we are working toward a common goal. Yahoo, co-ops. May they grow and prosper!”