While the team works on administrative tasks, I thought I would share some information on a Wisconsin food cooperative that has been successful for several decades. Willy Street Co-op has a long history in Madison. The cooperative has relocated as it expanded and is now a beautiful market which serves many people in Madison. The Downtown Food Project team is happy to be mentored by Willy Street Co-op and excited to have this cooperative as an example to follow.
Willy Street Co-op opened in Madison in 1974. It started in a very small building shared with a bakery. The members wanted natural foods and more control over what they ate. Within its first year, the Co-op moved to a larger space and was able to provide a greater variety of produce, bulk and prepackaged foods. The current market at 1221 Williamson Street is 9,500 square feet and includes a teaching kitchen, deli, juice bar, and bakery. In the first five years, the Co-op grew from 1,300 to 4,000 members. It now has over 20,000 members and annual sales of close to $20 million. The cooperative is economically viable, meets the CGIN Living Wage for its employees, and is an institution in the community. The market has been so successful that it is in the process of opening a second store on University Avenue in Middleton. The Co-op held a bond sale and was able to meet their goal of $600,00 in just three weeks. By early May 2010, they had raised $1 million for the new market.
Willy Street Co-op’s goals place an emphasis on natural, wholesome, local foods. It is also concerned about the affordability of its products and has ethic and environmental expectations for its suppliers. The Co-op offers classes on wellness and nutrition, home delivery and catering. It also follows sustainability practices which include installing a rain garden, helping build a cob wall to promote natural building methods, installing solar hot water and solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftop, and using compostable and recycled containers in the deli.
To learn more about Willy Street Co-op, please visit their web site.