Willy Street Co-op (copy)

Willy West, located at 6825 University Ave. in Middleton, will soon expand into an adjacent space.

BARRY ADAMS - State Journal

Willy Street Co-op officially announced last Wednesday the approval to expand its location at 6825 University Ave. in Middleton. The decision was ratified by a vote of co-op membership.

According to Anya Firszt, the co-op's general manager, 1,482 members voted in favor of the expansion, equal to 85 percent of the votes cast. The Middleton store, known as "Willy West," is currently the smallest of three locations and will be expanding onto a vacant space next to it at the Parkwood Plaza.

“The hope is to expand a couple product lines and generally just make it easier to shop. Our aisles are very small and the store is very tight. It's difficult to add any new products that people are looking for and it's difficult for people to get through the store when it's busy,” said Lindsey Hardy, Willy Street Co-op West manager.

Hardy said the expansion would allow for a larger selection in the beer and wine section, a popular area of the store.

Now that the expansion has been approved, staff will be going through a design phase and working towards a plan within the limitations of the budget, according to Firszt.

“I would imagine in the next 2-3 months we will have plans finalized and move forward with the process of securing contractors for the work,” Firszt said.

Firszt also said construction of the expansion will most likely start in early 2018.

There are no plans for any new locations or other expansions, but thanks to a recent ownership vote to devote funds, board members would be able to act quickly if an opportunity arises.

Hardy said she has received positive feedback about expansion from both employees and customers at Willy Street Co-op West, which opened in November, 2010.

“We've had a lot of excitement, a lot of questions about when it's going to start and what we are going to do with the space,“ Hardy said.

Willy Street Co-op is owned by 34,000 customers who invest in the business, but it is open for anyone to shop.

“Everybody can come in and check it out and see if they like it. If they like it, and they choose to become a co-op owner, it's very inexpensive," communications director Brendon Smith said. "It can be as low as $4 for the first payment if you qualify for certain kinds of financial assistance."

Those who choose to be members of the co-op do receive exclusive prices throughout the store.

Willy Street Co-op is Madison’s largest consumer-owned grocery store. It provides organic, locally produced, and conventional foods. The cooperative is run by a board of directors elected by owners.