Letter: Concerns about Willy Street Co-op

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To the Editor:

A month after the grand opening, I visited Willy Street North to price milk, bread, eggs and cheese and to make my own granola bars with fruit and nuts. I had checked out Copps’ prices earlier that day. In six years living on the Northside, I did all my shopping at Pierce’s and even worked in their deli for two years just before it closed.

I stood in the new Willy Street talking with a former co-worker and we couldn’t explain simple questions: Why do almost all the people who once shopped at Pierce’s not shop at the new store? Why did almost all the people who now shop at Willy Street not shop regularly at Pierce’s? Where did all these “new” shoppers come from? Is it just about the difference in food offered? Or is there something else?

Willy Street Corp. raised millions of dollars in capital to open the new store ($1.5 million from owner bond investments and the rest in lines of credit from banks and suppliers). Where did that money go? Remodeling? Advertising? Constructing the most expensive sign above any store in the history of the Northside?

A gallon of milk was almost a dollar more at Willy than at Copps. When a new supermarket opened up on Cottage Grove Road, they advertised a gallon of milk at $1.00 for weeks to encourage new people to shop. Why did Willy Street not invest some of those millions in an effort like that? Why wouldn’t they chose to expand their Double Dollars for food stamp recipients beyond just one day a week?

Willy Street is a supermarket just like all the others. It is a $42 million business. All the food comes in on trucks from mass distributors. Most people drive to the brand new parking lot (initially paid for with city money). The shelves are organized with the highest priced stuff at eye level and the cheapest, discounted products out of the way.

I left wondering: How does Willy Street North plan to become more than just a supermarket?

Please contact me at jackson.foote@gmail.com for a full price comparison.

~ Jackson Foote

Editor’s note: The city did not pay for a new parking lot at Northside TownCenter. Sherman Plaza, Inc. received a loan from the City of Madison’s revolving loan fund to renovate a portion of the parking lot.