New Willy Street Co-op on Madison's North Side

Aims to Accomodate All Price Points
The entryway is still under construction as you walk in, but the Willy Street Co-op has officially opened on Madison's north side.

The official grand opening won't be until September 23rd, but residents were able to make their first purchases Monday morning. The neighborhood has been clamoring for a grocery store ever since Pierce's packed up and left back in April.

"We really had nowhere to go," says longtime north side resident Patricia Butler, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1975.

"Some people don't believe that everybody doesn't have a car. People really struggled to find food."

Butler is excited to finally have a grocery so near by. She and a few others organized a shuttle service in June to bring people to Woodman's and Willy Street Co-op on the east side of town. She says it's important for the neighborhood to have their own place to go.

The new store fills a void in this neighborhood, but many were skeptical whether the Willy Street Co-op business model would fit the needs of the north side community.

"When we were asking for input on potentially opening a store here, affordability was something that was brought up," Willy Street director of communications Brendon Smith says.

The new $2.7 million facility is 19,000 square feet, twice the size of the other two Willy Street Co-op locations in Madison. Smith says that size will help them meet the needs of a diverse neighborhood

"We have room to bring in more conventional food to kind of offer a variety of price points," Smith explains. "We want to make sure it's a place where everyone can shop."

To meet the neighborhood's needs, Smith says they will offer several cheaper "name brand" products at this location. They will also have a pallet program where the co-op will buy products in bulk and then offer those savings to the consumer.

"We knew it was important to the neighborhood and our owners to be affordable," Smith says.

Butler says she and others are also training residents how to buy in bulk and share among themselves in order to save money. She gave the example of neighbors going in together to split a ten pound package of ground beef, instead of buying individual pounds and paying for a premium.

"There are ways to help people out and make things more affordable," Butler says.

She feels the concept of owning a piece of the co-op will also entice new customers by creating a sense of community and pride.

"You are a voting member in this store. You determine what goes on the shelf. You are that person and they've never felt like that before."

Time will tell whether the co-op will be able to meet the community's needs and survive on the north side. The store was busy Monday morning with dozens of customers eager to see the new store. Butler is hoping it will become a fixture of the neighborhood and will create a sense of stability for local residents


by Gordon Severson [email protected]

Posted: Aug 15, 2016 Updated: Aug 30, 2016 

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