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Willy Street Co-op. EXPLORING COOPERATIVES: Economic Democracy & Community Development in Pennsylvania & Wisconsin Courtney Berner, UW Center for Cooperatives June 13, 2012. Introduction. Historical Overview. 1974: Incorporated, opened, moved to second location

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willy street co op

Willy Street Co-op


Economic Democracy & Community Development in Pennsylvania & Wisconsin

Courtney Berner, UW Center for Cooperatives

June 13, 2012

historical overview
Historical Overview
  • 1974: Incorporated, opened, moved to second location
  • 1977: Moved to third location
  • 1979: Elected first Board of Directors
  • 1982: Hired first General Manager
  • 1999: Opened current eastside location
  • 2000-2004: Annual sales grew from $6.34 to $11.4 million
  • 2003: Began exploring opening a second retail location
  • 2010: Opened a second retail location in Middleton, WI
contemporary structure membership
Contemporary Structure: Membership
  • Over 24,000 active members
  • An individual member is one person with one vote. A household membership consists of two people entitled to one vote.
  • Owners have access to several benefits including Owner sales, patronage dividends, discounts on bulk purchasing, and
  • Participation:
    • Shopping: 93% of sales were to Owners
    • Voting: 7% of Owners voted in the FY 2011
    • Feedback: Owners provided 2,356 written comments in the store and via the website in FY 2011
contemporary structure governance
Contemporary Structure: Governance
  • Nine-member board of directors elected by the membership
  • Policy Governance
  • Four standing committees
    • Finance
    • Policy Review
    • Board Development/Nominations
    • Audit
contemporary structure staff
Contemporary Structure: Staff
  • 276 Employees
    • Expanded from 173 to 276 employees in FY 2011
    • Includes 160 full-time staff
  • Employee benefits includes health insurance, paid vacation, employee discounts, profit sharing, and participatory management.
contemporary structure finances
Contemporary Structure: Finances
  • SALES: In FY 2011, generated $27.6 million in gross sales, exceeding projected sales by 15 percent.
  • EXPANSION FINANCING: Total financing for the second retail site was $3,450,562 and included a landlord tenant improvement allowance, an Owner bond drive, cash held by the Co-op, vendor credit, and a business loan.
  • DEBT: As a result of the expansion, the Co-op took on approx. $1.5 million in long-term liabilities between FY 2010 and 2011. This raised the Co-op’s long‐term liabilities to $2.8 million, the highest level in the Co-op’s history.
  • PATRONAGE: In FY 2010, the Co-op paid its first patronage refund, returning $96,775 in cash and allocating $387,085 in equity to Owners.
analysis is the co op getting too big
Analysis: Is the Co-op getting too big?
  • “To them the Co-op was becoming too big and losing its co-op feel. They’ve also been members since the 70s so they remember when you went in and did your three-hour shift. And now we don’t even permit that. So to them, they felt like the Co-op was selling out and becoming more like a big business.”
  • I am deeply saddened that Willy Co-op is becoming so mainstream and corporatized, with the sole goal of ‘expansion’ and with ‘management’ making all business decisions. Nowadays, it seems to be almost a misnomer to call the store a cooperative.”
analysis what is the co op s responsibility
Analysis: What is the Co-op’s responsibility?
  • “People who are having success doing good work have an obligation to do more of it.”
  • “I’d like to see them replicate the success in whatever way they think is best. It might not be another store, it might be something else. The co-op is a very successful enterprise. If you look at the ends policies they talk about being an economic cornerstone. We should not rest on our laurels.”
  • “In some ways, for me it’s tough to balance if it is our job to open other co-ops. Because I do think that co-ops are somewhat grassroots efforts and communities build them and that’s why they thrive. But I do know that it’s very hard to do as a start-up. So my long-term goal is that the Middleton store might be spun off and turned into a Middleton co-op. I know that’s a ways down the road and that not everyone would agree with me.”
analysis what is the best way to serve owners
Analysis: What is the best way to serve Owners?
  • Lower prices?
  • Living wages?
  • Supporting local producers?
  • Giving back to the community?
  • Core Initiatives:
    • Develop the local food system
    • Pursue green initiatives
    • Make the co-op more financially accessible