The Willy Street Co-op currently has two locations: Willy East on Williamson Street, and Willy West on University Avenue. Brendon Smith, Willy Street Co-op spokesperson, said both stores are seeing much higher profits than originally expected.
Smith said the second store, Willy West, was projected to see profits in five years at its onset. Smith said the store has reached its profit margin in under two years. He said the community has been very welcoming and involved, allowing the stores to flourish.
Smith said the business is looking to open a new store to appease some of its customers, who have requested a closer store.
“We’ve been hearing the same things that we heard before we opened the second store,” Smith said. “[Customers say,] ‘We love the co-op. It would be great if there was a store closer to me.’ We have owners spread throughout Dane county, so we have owners who don’t have a store as accessible as we’d like it to be.”
Smith said customers are also concerned about parking at their east side location, especially during busy hours. Smith said the store cannot add parking at that location. Opening a new store may alleviate the crowds, Smith said.
Smith said the co-op’s general manager has created a task force made up of staff, board members and co-op owners to evaluate possible sites for the new location.
The task force will meet at the end of October with hopes to have a recommendation for a location at the end of the calendar year, Smith said. He said the co-op would need to put the new location to an owner vote before purchasing new facilities.
The co-op has 31,000 owners, Smith said. To become an owner, customers can make an equity investment in the co-op, Smith said. He said once a customer is an owner, they can vote on how the store is run.
Smith said owners can run for the nine-member board, vote for board members and vote on adding stores or changing store by-laws.
“The co-op is literally owned by the people who shop in it and who have made an equity investment,” Smith said. “So we are accountable to the people who shop in the store.”
The store also has a patron fund, which allows owners to get back a portion of their money depending on how much they have spent, Smith said.
Mike Verveer, Ald. District 4, said the co-op has been looking for a third location for some time. He said they have specifically been looking in the downtown area.
Verveer added the co-op opened a second store in Middleton after a location near the Capitol fell through. He added the co-op is looking at a location on East Washington Avenue.