A Sneak Peek at Willy North

Willy Street Co-op’s Third Location Set to Open on August 15, 2016

The transformation of Pierce’s Northside Market into “Willy North” is nearly complete. The shelves still need to be dusted and stocked. Some new flooring still needs to be installed. But all the basics — including the green lampposts over the registers — are in place at the Willy Street Co-op’s new grocery store on Madison’s north side. It was only this past April that the co-op’s board of directors officially approved plans to launch Willy North; now, the member-owned cooperative's third location at 2817 N. Sherman Ave. in the Northside Town Center will be open for business on Aug. 15.

“The residents of this neighborhood need a grocery store,” says James Phetteplace, director of information services and project manager for Willy North. “A fast turnaround on the remodel was really important because the community can’t wait.”

The public can get a sneak peek of Willy North this Sunday, July 31, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Just two weeks after that, customers will have their first chance to buy groceries under a “soft opening,” says Phetteplace. New fixtures, grease traps, heating and cooling vents, employee stations and a reverse osmosis water system have been installed, and the store is getting a fresh coat of paint. The official grand opening, when all the construction is complete, is scheduled for early this fall.

Willy North will be far larger than its sister stores on Williamson Street and University Avenue in Middleton. In freezer space alone, Willy North will have about triple the capacity as the other co-op locations.

“We could put the entire east-side Madison store right inside this one and still have 40% to fill up,” says Phetteplace. “Our others stores have 9,600 square feet of retail space. [Willy North] has about 19,000.”

Shoppers can expect to see virtually all the local, organic, fair-trade and specialty products the co-op currently offers at its other locations. A larger selection of more traditional grocery items, comparable to what was available at Pierce’s, will help occupy all that additional space. Phetteplace says the product selection will evolve, based on input from customers.

“We’ll be carrying more conventional grocery products. And they’ll be on the shelf right next to our regular products,” says Phetteplace. “We’re a consumer cooperative. The food choices are ultimately made by the people who live in this neighborhood.”

The new store will have a hot bar with prepared food. A full-service liquor department, deli counter, seafood center and sushi bar should all be up in running shortly after the soft opening in August.

“There will not be a coffee and juice bar right when we open. What we hope to do is have another remodel in a few years so we can include that,” says Phetteplace.

A perception that the Willy Street Co-op caters mostly to affluent shoppers will be tested at Willy North. Phetteplace says the new store will have a greater focus on selling staple products at prices everyone can afford.

“We’re going to buy products in bulk and have pallet deals right on the sales floor. So we should be able to offer lower prices for those products,” says Phetteplace.

In another effort to broaden the co-op’s customer base, the long-held policy of adding a surcharge to the grocery bills of non-owners will be waived at Willy North. In fact, the 5% fee (lowered from 10% when Willy West opened) will be discontinued permanently at all locations. In order to vote or run for the co-op's board of directors and receive other member benefits, customers will still have to pay equity dues.

“We want to stop penalizing those who are trying out our store for the first time by forcing them to pay additional surcharge fees,” writes Kristen Moore, director of cooperative services, in the July edition of the Willy Street Co-op Reader. “[Due to] our desire to be a cooperative that provides fairly priced products and supports accessibility for all in our community authentically and generously, we are pleased to announce that the Board has agreed to support a Fiscal Year 2017 budget that discontinues the non-owner surcharge starting August 1.”

So far, response from the north-side neighborhoods around the new store has been “extremely positive,” says Phetteplace. “We've had four times the number of positive emails than we did when we opened Willy West. It's been overwhelmingly positive.”

An owner bond drive with a $1.5 million goal has been launched to help pay for the new store (this is similar to how the west-side store was financed). As of mid-July, over $1 million had been raised.

The co-op is anticipating many customers at Willy North to be one-stop shoppers; that is, shopping for most or all of their groceries in the store.  In response, the carts will be larger than at the co-op’s other two locations and the checkout lanes have been designed to accommodate more items.

Willy North is also expected to take some pressure off Willy East. Phetteplace says the co-op’s flagship store is bursting at the seams. “[Willy East] is a busy place,” he says. “One example is parking, which is limited at the east-side store. Compared to this site, there really isn’t a comparison. There’s just a ton of parking here.”

Willy North is the latest and most ambitious expansion project for the homegrown grocery cooperative. The Willy Street Co-op started in 1973 with a volunteer staff at the site of what’s now Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse. The building was shared with the worker cooperative Nature’s Bakery. It wasn’t long before the store relocated to 1014 Williamson St. (currently the Petinary). After outgrowing that space, the co-op operated at 1202 Williamson St. for over two decades at what's now the Social Justice Center. In 1999, Willy Street Co-op moved into far larger digs across the street at the former Eagles Club at 1221 Williamson St. (where the flagship store is still located). The long-awaited second location, in Middleton, opened in 2010.

Currently, approximately 33,000 active members own the co-op. Around 50 new employees have already been hired to staff Willy North. The total number of workers at the cooperative now exceeds 400 employees across three retail stores, an off-site kitchen and a central office.

Furthermore, Phetteplace doesn't think Willy North will be the last store he’ll help launch. He suspects there may be a fourth location in the Willy Street Co-op’s future. “This project is happening because the community asked us,” says Phetteplace. “If there is another community in the Madison area that's looking for a Willy Street Co-op in their neck of the woods, they should reach out to us.”

by Dylan Brogan   July 25, 2016 Isthmus

See more at: http://bit.ly/2aanS06

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Willy Street Co-op North Sneak Peek

Willy Street Co-op North - 2817 N Sherman Ave, Madison, WI 53704

Willy North will be opening in mid-August in the former location of Pierce's NorthSide Market, but you can join us for a “sneak peek”! July 31, from 11am-3pm. People will be able to walk into the store before we put products on the shelves and complete construction. You can see much of the store, ask questions, try a variety of food samples, sign up to become an Owner, and more. The event is free! If you come early, you can stop by the Northside Farmers Market as well (which runs 8:30am-12:30pm); if you come later, you can go to the Mallards game at 4:05pm.

See more at: http://isthmus.com/events/willy-street-co-op-north-sneak-peek/#sthash.3h...

11 am-3 pm, 7/31, 2817 N. Sherman Ave. willystreet.coop.

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Diverse options for diverse neighborhood

Madison’s iconic co-op is looking to open a third store where Pierce’s Market is now located. There is no doubt the co-op will do fine. The real question is whether it will serve the entire community or be a force for gentrification

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