Common Wealth sends much congratulations to the Willy Street Co-op on the grand opening of their new store on Madison’s north side in a food desert this past August 15, located at 2817 N. Sherman Ave.
This harkens back to 1985, when Common Wealth had a capital equity and loan program funded by the City of Madison’s CDBG program. We had a chance to catch up with Mark Koppelkam, who helped draw up business plans for the Willy Street Co-op that was originally located at the corner of Williamson and Few Streets, where the Social Justice Center is now. Mark was the lead on this project for Common Wealth at that time and now works as a Loan Underwriter with MassHousing in Boston.
Back in the early 1980s, the Co-op was facing challenges of how to generate new revenue. Staffing costs were high but sales were sluggish, primarily because there was only so much space to sell groceries. What was it like helping the Co-op justify an expansion?
I did up a business plan….I remember it was amazing because I could use the newfangled personal computers to actually make and print out graphs! So as a geek, all the data from a grocery business was awesome…think of all the graphs you could do….sales and operating expenses by year, by department, by square foot etc.! You have no idea what a fantastic invention that was…PC’s and Lotus 1-2-3.
This discussion causes me to bring up google maps street view and look at the building, and Willy Street, all of which brings back a lot of good memories. Granola doesn’t just happen!!!
What is your background and how did you get involved with cooperative business model planning?
I was pleased to work on the Willy Street Co-op expansion as I had just spent a year in the VISTA program. I was trained at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, which coordinated the VISTA program. I worked in different locations in Wisconsin, primarily helping food cooperatives. I know the LaCrosse food coop has a great storefront downtown and is doing very well. The woman who ran the Gordon Park (Milwaukee Riverwest neighborhood) food co-op, Marilyn Scholl is now a national cooperative consultant.
Congratulations again to the Willy Street Co-op on your continued expansion in Madison!