Mifflin St. Co-op - RIP

Please limit discussion in this area to local and state politics.

Where do you shop for food?

Willy St. Co-op
14
36%
Mifflin St. Co-op
0
No votes
Trader Joe's
3
8%
Whole Foods
0
No votes
Woodman's
14
36%
Regent St. Co-op
0
No votes
Sentry
2
5%
Cub Foods
2
5%
I'm a robot and so don't need organic sustenance
4
10%
 
Total votes: 39

nickled&dimed
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Postby nickled&dimed » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:43 pm

when I was a student, and walked past the co-op every day, I bought my dinner every day on the way home. i wonder if the changing student demographics - housing had an impact?

Mike S.
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Postby Mike S. » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:59 pm

I'm very sad to hear this. The Mifflin Street Co-op was obviously something very special - one of the few true bits of local color to distinguish Madison from a thousand other cities where people wear necklaces woven from Wal-Mart hemp.

On recollection, I think they made several mistakes:

1. The food they sold was simply too damned cheap. They were a great place to stock up on rice and beans, but there's not much money in that. One aspect of this was the domination of their menu by apparent vegans; sorry, but that wasn't the revolution I was looking for.

2. Their system of writing down prices and using donated bags that were half falling apart was ... quaint... but it shouldn't have been a core mission. They should have made more concessions to convenience.

3. They utterly failed to advertise. A person walking down State might never have known of their existence. Madison is a city where every garage band has up flyers for a year and a half advertising their one big show at a bar, but you never saw a poster to come support your co-op. Maybe they advertised in some medium, but they really needed people who would walk or bus in.

4. It was way too easy to miss meetings where I might have told them stuff like this; I generally didn't know when they were. They should have set up a LISTSERV.

5. The guerilla cookie screw-up reveals just plain sloppiness. They could have done so much with that; instead they lost it. For example, they could have tried to release the recipe as some kind of GNU Public Trademark, that can be used so long as it benefits a co-op or non-profit organization; that way it would become some kind of national institution that would reflect goodwill upon its originator.

6. There has to be some way for the co-ops - what remain of them - to coordinate better. To put in large combined orders for specific days and advertise the sales to all their various members. To bargain collectively for acceptable prices on things.

7. Despite the guerilla talk, the Mifflin Street Co-op lost its guerilla perspective. For example, in today's world, what I'd like to see some co-op - any co-op - do would be to set up one of those RFID readers like the big stores use that go off all the time on shoppers - but let the customer read it off. So you walk in and you see that anyone willing to pay for a reader can see the serial number for your car key, your passport, the shoes you're wearing. It might open some eyes. Or they could sell coffee that they import straight from sympathetic people struggling for change right now in Oaxaca, and make that widely known so people would come in from all over to take part. There's no shortage of issues, really - and if a co-op is so dedicated to being weird, they should try to be good weird.

8. They should have militated more effectively for a bail-out from the city. You can say that's a cop-out, but we live in a capitalist society - and you can't compete in a capitalist society when Lee Iococca (sp?) can ask Congress for a large fortune but a local co-op can't get a break on back taxes. Every company that sets up shop anywhere in the country expects some kind of gimme to reward them for "creating jobs" - this co-op is the one noble peasant proudly starving in the corner.

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Postby Huckleby » Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:22 am

Mike S. wrote:On recollection, I think they made several mistakes:


I really don't know a damn thing about food co-ops, but lack of knowlege has never slowed me down from posting before, so let me add these theories:

1) The Willy Street Co-op appears to be thriving. Why? I imagine it is because they morphed into more of a commercial supermarket, met customer needs better. Is it possible that Mifflin just wasn't willing to make such ideological compromises?

2) Regent Street Market maintains homey, co-op atmosphere, and they are hanging in there. But I also know that there are well-off people in their neighborhood who have kicked-in some big donations to keep the place afloat. Perhaps Mifflin's poorer immediate neighborhood means fewer generous patrons.

lysander
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Postby lysander » Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:35 am

In terms of living wages and such, while I appreciate the co-op attitude, I always felt off about supporting a grocery store that didn't pay their staff. Sometimes, AT ALL. I feel one way about paying extra to fund some person's health insurance fund, but a whole 'nother way about paying to have free workers on staff doing my bidding for overpriced goods. I mean, what is the advantage over the other 15 places to buy goods in the area? At least some kid's getting $7 an hour, you know?

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Postby Bwis53 » Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:53 am

I rarely shopped at Mifflin because of poor selection. I don't mind much, shopping part at Willy and part at Sentry. If I miss the bus, I can still have a pleasant walk to Willy, which is the same distance as Mifflin, from me. My diet serves me very well and I want to shop for my stuff with minimum fuss.

Ingersoll
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Postby Ingersoll » Wed Nov 01, 2006 12:14 am

Mike S. wrote:1. The food they sold was simply too damned cheap. They were a great place to stock up on rice and beans, but there's not much money in that. One aspect of this was the domination of their menu by apparent vegans; sorry, but that wasn't the revolution I was looking for.


When Mifflin was an all vegetarian store (before mid 2005) I shopped there every week. I went out of my way (and paid more) to support it because the store was exclusively vegetarian. When the staff decided to add meat, I stopped going. If I'm going to buy from a store that sells meat, I might as well go someplace that is more convenient and not as expensive. I told them I would shop there again when they stopped selling meat and I encouraged others to take the same position.

I'm not sure how many other vegetarians stopped shopping there when they did that, but evidently their decision to start selling meat wasn't a wise one in light of their current situation.

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Postby white_rabbit » Wed Nov 01, 2006 12:24 am

Ingersoll wrote: I went out of my way (and paid more) to support it because the store was exclusively vegetarian. When the staff decided to add meat, I stopped going. If I'm going to buy from a store that sells meat, I might as well go someplace that is more convenient and not as expensive.


How Green. I have no idea how you vote, but this sounds so much how Greens justify their de facto support of Republicans in close races by supporting Greens.

Ingersoll
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Postby Ingersoll » Wed Nov 01, 2006 12:34 am

white_rabbit wrote:
Ingersoll wrote: I went out of my way (and paid more) to support it because the store was exclusively vegetarian. When the staff decided to add meat, I stopped going. If I'm going to buy from a store that sells meat, I might as well go someplace that is more convenient and not as expensive.


How Green. I have no idea how you vote, but this sounds so much how Greens justify their de facto support of Republicans in close races by supporting Greens.



My sole reason for shopping there stopped existing.

Additionally, A vote for a Green is not "de facto support" for anyone except for the Green party candidate. Do you also consider everyone who didn't vote at all to have de facto support of the Republicans? If the democrats spent as much effort attacking republicans as they do greens, they might actually win more often.

white_rabbit
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Postby white_rabbit » Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:06 am

Ingersoll wrote:
My sole reason for shopping there stopped existing.


You stop shopping at a co-op because it became irrelvant, but yet you continue to vote for irrelvant candidates.

Do you also consider everyone who didn't vote at all to have de facto support of the Republicans?

Yes

If the democrats spent as much effort attacking republicans as they do greens, they might actually win more often.


If Greens spent as much effort working in the Democratic party as they do attacking Democrats, they might actually help further their agenda.

nickled&dimed
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Postby nickled&dimed » Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:18 am

ouch. Damn rabbit, you get on target and close to home after a few JD & cokes.

but of course, i quite agree.

Genie
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Postby Genie » Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:28 am

Huckleby wrote:No sense of humor. Well, that narrows the field somewhat.....


Oh, I get it, it was funny :lol: :shock: There were some guys at the Lantern that would have asked that question with all seriousness.

Huckleby
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Postby Huckleby » Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:16 am

Genie wrote:Oh, I get it, it was funny :lol: :shock: There were some guys at the Lantern that would have asked that question with all seriousness.


Well, I'll apologize for creeping you out and questioning your sense of humor. Jokes in writing among people who don't know each other are not so obvious.

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Postby Dulouz » Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:40 pm

Ingersoll wrote:If I'm going to buy from a store that sells meat, I might as well go someplace that is more convenient and not as expensive. I told them I would shop there again when they stopped selling meat and I encouraged others to take the same position.

I'm not sure how many other vegetarians stopped shopping there when they did that, but evidently their decision to start selling meat wasn't a wise one in light of their current situation.


Right. It couldn't have been because of poor financial management combined with changing demographics of the neighborhood and an industry/consumer shift towards larger footprints and one-stop shopping--that would be crazy. It was obviously the result of intransigent holier-than-thou leftists of the infantile disorder who don't really believe in community as much as they really want everything to operate according their own narrow viewpoint. I'm sorry, but you are as economically insignifant as you are politically insignificant.

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Postby FaceForRadio » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:51 am

A couple things on the probable closing:

First, it's not a done deal yet. Very likely, but the membership does have to vote on it in a couple weeks.

Second, if/when it closes, there will likely be some money left over from the sale of the building. The building is old and quite historic. It's big and has a great location. They'll make plenty from its sale. The Board would determine what to do with the money, but I've heard some talk about setting up a fund for other community groups to apply for grants.

On a couple of Mike S's points, particularly:
3. They utterly failed to advertise.

4. They should have set up a LISTSERV.


These are things that the current staff did improve on. They have had a listserv for a couple years, and outreach efforts were improving some.

But it was basically too little, too late, imho. Seven years of not paying payroll taxes shows straight up incompetence of whoever was in charge of that. But the root issue is that the store spent decades doing pretty much the same ol' thing they always had done, either not noticing or not responding to the changes that were going on all around. If you're supplying food for the revolution, you need to know what the revolution looks like and know what the revolutionaries are looking for.[/quote]

quarque
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Re: Mifflin St. Co-op - RIP

Postby quarque » Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:46 pm

Well Genie, you do know some things but your memory is faulty on several accounts. Sid was not a "film major" - film was a hobby of his. His degree was in Applied Math.

Whitmer and McMullen were not Stalinists, or even close. McMullen was a wobbly if anything and Whitmer was a socialist at most. Really, none of the garage people were Stalinists. I'm not sure you even know what the term means.

The Green Lantern and Coop Garage were great institutions. Both were examples of how cooperatives could really work well.

I wish people would stop spouting off about things they don't know about.


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