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Madison Magazine: North Side's New Grocery Might Defy Some Stereotypes

MADISON -- It's been in the news lately that low-income North Siders bus to Copp's or Woodman's for their groceries. Meanwhile, a grassroots effort, led by Michael Shinners among others, is under way to launch a grocery cooperative on the North Side, especially for low-income people. But will membership fees -- not to mention prices -- exclude the very people the store is being built for? Shinners has some answers.

Madison Business Associate Editor Robert Chappell interviewed Shinners for the June issue of Madison Magazine.

Chappell: How and why did the co-op get started in the first place?

The brand-new Kohl's grocery store closed over here two years ago, and owner Roundy's chose to leave it empty and continue paying on the lease. And we missed that store. We have a fair number of low-income folks living on Packers Avenue and Northport Drive and they now have to try to get to Copp's by bus. It's a real struggle for people who don't have cars. I'm a neighborhood rep to the Northside Planning Council. They called a meeting on the grocery store and we had a good turnout and toward the end somebody said, "I'll pledge a thousand dollars to start a co-op." And I'd been kind of thinking along those lines. So afterward I talked to him and he gave me his e-mail address, which I've since lost, and I don't remember who he was. I haven't talked to him because he made some comment that his wife might not be too thrilled to hear that he said this. But while we were talking one or two more people came up and said, "Yeah, I'd pledge a couple hundred dollars to start a co-op." So I put a notice in the Northside News just saying, "anybody interested in starting a grocery store cooperative on the North Side, contact me." We had a meeting at my house and then subsequently met weekly or every other week and we've been building ever since. We've had some public meetings to get membership going and now we're talking with Willy Street Co-op about a partnership. We've got a framework in place and we've had a couple of meetings with the Brunns, the owners of Sherman Plaza. Things are going well.

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