Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Mifflin Street Co-op considers closing

After the summer construction on Johnson Street, Mifflin Street Co-op faces the possibility of closing their doors to the community if sales do not increase.

A collectively run cooperative, one in which members own and run the business, the Mifflin Street Co-op is an all-vegetarian grocery store. It has been part of the Mifflin community since 1969.

For the past ten years, however, Mifflin Street Co-op has been on shaky ground.

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“Our sales and our membership have been going down for about ten years — a long sort of slow gradual drop off. And around 2000-2001 it reached a critical point,” purchasing manager Leigh Weaver said.

After evaluating the situation last year, the co-op decided to replace its old boiler and do a major renovation to the store in hopes that it would encourage people to shop.

“We borrowed a lot of money from the Dane fund and other sources to fund the renovation,” Weaver said. “We knew that it was a make-or-break situation — that it had to result in increased sales, or we were going to be in trouble because of the debt we took on.”

At first the renovations seemed to have done the trick. Sales were up 14 percent from the year before, but things started to drop off in May, when students left and road construction began.

“We have gotten into a cash-flow situation, and it is frustrating because our sales are actually still above last year’s,” Weaver said. “That happens to businesses; it isn’t a matter of whether you are profitable or not, it is a mater of having cash.”

Weaver says that the co-op does own the building and if they choose to close selling the building will more than pay off their debts. With this money they would then hopefully do something in accordance with their mission to help educate people about the economics of food and the politics of food distribution.

“Either the membership comes together as a community and takes control of the co-op and participates fully in the co-op function, or we should let it go now while we can do it gracefully and make sure that everyone gets the money that we owe them,” Weaver said. “But we don’t want to keep limping along on one leg, sort of being a not very successful grocery store and not much else.”

The co-op has about 900 members, down from their peak of 2,000. Co-op member and volunteer Tammy Shapiro said she would be very sad if the co-op closed.

“I like co-ops — owning where you’re working. There is a nice feeling here and a rich history,” Shapiro said.

“I shop there because I like the products that they carry. I like the fact that they support as many local suppliers as possible and that they pay attention to where the food comes from,” Co-op member Judy Kingsbury said.

The membership will do all they can to turn the Mifflin Street Co-op around, getting their name out there and encouraging people to shop there, members said.

“It is a neat part of the community, such an important part of the community,” Kingsbury said. “I would feel really sad if it disappeared.”

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