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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 46.0° F  Fair
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Why people shop for groceries where they do in Madison
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In the process of looking at the differences among the various grocery stores in Madison for this week's cover story in Isthmus, I asked my friends and co-workers where they shopped and why. You will immediately discern a clear pattern -- the standard response is something like, "Woodman's for staples, another store closer to my house for produce and meat." Woodman's often trumps proximity, although otherwise, proximity is the #1 reason for choosing a store. It comes out to about half east-siders, half west-siders.

The question was: "What's the grocery store where you do most of your food shopping, and what do you like about it? What's the store where you go second-most often, and why?" Here are the answers.

  • Half at Woodman's, half at the Willy Street Co-op. I buy junk food at Woodman's and real food at the co-op. The co-op has the best produce and organic meat, but Woodman's has the cheesy poofs.

    1. Woodman's, for price and availability of a wide range of items, many of which are hard to find otherwise. Also, you never know what you're gonna see going on in there.
    2. It's been the Aberg Avenue Copps, but I generally only buy meat/produce there if I've been diligent enough to go to Woodman's first. This habit will probably be altered to Jenny St. Market soon, since they're not any more expensive than Copps at this point.

    1. Woodman's West: The acceptable response is value, but at least half the reason is entertainment value and the likelihood I'll run into someone I know. Also, no other grocery store has the same kind of selection on the shelves.
    2. Copps on Whitney: I have to go here to get decent produce, as Woodman's is horrible. Also, I like its sparkling-clean bulk coffee area, the deli/seafood counter and the salad bar. I also love banana chips.

    1. I go to Woodman's the most because of their cheap prices.
    2. The second would be Jenifer Street Market because they are very close to where I live & I just LOVE their produce & meat counter. I would shop there more, however they are pretty pricey.

    1. I go to Copps because of its location. It's not far from my apartment and the prices are reasonable.
    2. I go to Brennan's for fresh produce, cheese and wine. All of their food is amazingly tasty and reasonably priced. Especially the wine! They sell their own wine at 2 bottles for $10.

    1. Willy Street Co-op. The #1 reason I prefer it is that it is virtually across the street from my home. But the sustainability-minded wares are a big plus, as is the fact that it functions as a kind of community center. I like the staffers, too. I've made many friendly connections with them over the years. That seldom happens at other grocery stores I go to.
    2. It's a toss-up between Cub Foods and Woodman's. I go to them mostly because I'm loyal to a small number of mainstream supermarket brands that Willy Street doesn't carry. Why those two? They're the closest to my home.

    1. Copps in Monona wins out because I am familiar with the layout, the produce usually is fairly good, they just increased their wine selections, and the prices are fairly reasonable. Not that you asked, but I hate Woodman's for two reasons: The crowds and the fact that the beer/wine sales are in a totally separate store within the complex.
    2. Trader Joe's. They have a great bulk snack area for great prices (raw almonds, dried mango, etc.), the wine selection at great prices can't be beat (except maybe at Barriques across the street), the cheese area is not bad and is also at a good price point, and their prices on decent olive oil keep me coming back.

  • At our house, it's Jenifer St. Market for most things, Willy St. Co-op for some produce, deli and fish, and Woodman's for paper products and laundry supplies in bulk.

    1. Most at Trader Joe's, mostly because it's close and has low prices and interestingly offbeat products.
    2. Regent Market Co-op would probably be #2, again because it's close. It's also locally owned and deserves support, even though the selection's not great.

    1. I love shopping at SuperTarget, because it's right by where I live, and I love some of their brands.
    2. My second favorite place to shop is Metcalfe's Sentry, because of the fabulous produce, deli, bakery and fabulous ambiance.

  • I go to Copps at Midvale and University. Location, location, location... it's basically in my backyard. And they are cheaper than Sentry, which is also close. Second choice is Sentry at Hilldale. I like their wine selection and groovy classical music environment, but they are kind of pricey.

  • Capitol Centre Market: This is a regular simply due to geographical reasons. Expensive. Metcalfe's Sentry at Hilldale: This is my favorite, and decently accessible by bus. It has great selection at all levels, but is still fairly pricy, though less so than Cap Center. Woodman's East: Don't get here often, but when I do the amount purchased is huge. A good store with good values, though too distant to deal with on a weekly basis.

    1. Most often is Jenifer Street Market. It is small, independent, neighborhood-based and owned by local proprietors; the quality and freshness of its produce, baked goods and meats are quite good without being prohibitive in price; the staff are friendly; they stock artisanal cheeses and beer from local breweries; you can get a whole rotisserie chicken to take home for dinner; you're almost guaranteed to see someone you know while you're in the checkout line; there's a decent (if not huge) selection of organic and fair-trade items; and it has a quirky, unpretentious personality.
    2. Woodman's. It stocks just about everything short of furniture.

  • Mostly I shop at the Woodman's on the east side. I kinda hate it, actually, but it's cheap. That's really the only reason I go there. I go there mostly for the staples -- flour, butter, the occasional bunch of broccoli. Second most often is a tie: I go to the Cub Foods by the Home Depot on the west side for fresh stuff. They -- usually -- have better produce, always a nicer deli. They are pricier but not too much. Or I go to Trader Joe's because they have the things I can't find anywhere else (cheese types, ethnic stuff), and they are the least expensive compared to Fraboni's and the like.


One response that surprised me was liking a store because of the likelihood of running into your neighbors there. This struck me as quaint and kind of sweet, and it speaks to the importance of retaining neighborhood stores for more reasons than just convenience.

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