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Uppity Wisconsin - Progressive Webmasters

« Political Thanksgiving | Main | Mifflin Street Co-op: Food for the Revolution Link »

November 22, 2006


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George Hesselberg

Paul describes this perfectly, especially the constant and predictable debates about what the co-op would sell. But as a resident of 540 W. Mifflin St. in 1972, the co-op provided our group and block with more than the occasional Leinie returnable and the whole wheat for glorious pancake breakfasts on Sunday mornings. The co-op, believe it, at the time was sort of an upwardly mobile - for some of us anyway - place to be. It was a less marbelized version of the Capitol building, both literally and figuratively. "Go to the co-op and ..." was a common way to give directions. I wrote a story a couple of years ago about the history of the guerilla cookie. It began:
"In the saga of the Madison Guerrilla Cookie, those who remember its storied history are pleased to re-eat it.
"Be it the name, the contents, the secret recipe, the weight, the occasionally blackened bottom, even the sheen or the chewiness of the perfect specimen, it seems no one remembers it in exactly the same way. It is, in a political-culinary sense, the antithesis of a Christmas cookie: You can't eat more than one in a sitting, it is seldom included on party trays at holiday gatherings and it is difficult, if not impossible, to decorate.
The GC is cloaked in the sort of fuzzy mystery that fogs recountings of virtually everything that happened in Madison in the 1960s and 1970s."

Of course half the fun of writing such a story is tracking down and talking with the geezers responsible, and every one of them had hilarious stories to tell and somewhere in every story the co-op made an appearance. Calling it an icon is too easy. "Landmark" might be more accurate, except now it will be "where the co-op used to be."

Dan Sebald

Mifflin's closing is too bad. I don't have much nostalgia, but recognize they did try to supply food in a way that has low impact on the environment. And they tried to get requested products when they could. Plus there is the community oriented part of it.

It would have been nice if they could have adapted to a business model more suitable for the times, i.e., bigger place to serve more people... Food For The Evolution.

I suspect the neighborhood needs a grocer eventually. What will fill the void? Economic slump and real estate prices worry me a bit in terms of drawing interest from a grocer with co-op-like or community philosophy.

I do think the city could have been more involved (years ago) to help them find a better plan. It may have been compromise in some people's eyes, but serving more people can have bigger impact.

Ben Masel

I've got the pdf of the long form history, and will email it on request.

Mike Ciolkos

Hello there. This whole Mifflin Street and the Co-op story is most interesting. I have followed it for years. My involvement with it began in the late 1950's. My Grandfather lived at 305 Mifflin Street, until his passing in 1966. We are from Indiana and would to go to vist him. As a child (about 7 or eight years old at the time), I was allowed to walk down to "The Store" and buy some candy or whatever I had a hankerin for on that particular day. I have very fond memories of this.
Later (as a teenager), I began to hear about how the neighborhood was changing and that "The Store" had become a Co-op. As they say, the rest is history.
I have followed that history. You mention you have a PDF of the long form history and you say you will email it upon request. Could you please email it to me. If you have any other material that you think would be of interest to me, could you please email that to me too.
Mike Ciolkos
2042 N 500 West
Angola, Indiana 46703

Bob Noble

I, too, would like to see the history PDF. I'd also very much like to read a history/analysis of Mifflin Street Co-op's decline. Why did it fail? What are the root causes? Could they have been avoided? I searched the trade journal, Cooperative Grocer, but found nothing :-(. Thanks,
Bob Noble, Weavers Way Co-op, Philadelphia PA


If you look above you can find a link to Ben Masel's email; he has the PDF version of the history. It does not have the corrections I made when I posted it here:

deborah petrarca

I remember Mifflin Street co-op and the Guerrilla cookie very well. We sold lots of them every day. I was a member of the Good Karma Vegetarian Restaurant Cooperative. Anyone remember us? We were a below ground complex of hippie shops and restaurant by day and a jazz/folk club by night.We were located right on State Street in the early 70's. I think the co-op moved closer to the U in later years. I have not found anything on the internet about us although there were a number of newspaper articles and a cookbook published through the years.
We had some big name music there during my time-Charlie Mingus,Stan Turrentine, Zoot Sims Odetta, George Benson, Mimi Farina, etc. I'd love to connect to my co-op kin-Josh, Tish, , Jon Monroe and many more great souls.
Anyone know where the Good Karma folk have gone?



If I remember, Good Karma offered the best avacado and peanut butter sandwich in the midwest. When Charlie Mingus came to Madison, I gave him the key to the city. He stayed at Ben Sidran's that night. When he arrived there after the concert, he asked Ben, "I have the key, now where is the lock?"

I believe Josh is in the Twin Cities where he runs (ran?) the Stanley Kaplan Learning Center Company.

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