For more than 20 years Anne Reynolds made a career out of assisting cooperatives from nationally recognized brands, such as Ocean Spray, as well as local outlets such as Willy Street Co-op.
Although she retired as executive director of UW-Madison’s Center for Cooperatives in January, Reynolds remains busy with her involvement in the Madison Public Market project. She leads the city’s Public Market Development Committee, which is guiding development of the $11.8 million project planned at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and North First Street.
Reynolds, 64, also sits on the board of directors for the Madison Public Market Foundation, which is conducting private fundraising for the project and was recently selected to be the market’s operator when it opens as early as 2020.
The West High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in African languages and literature and a master’s degree in information science from UW-Madison. Reynolds moved around the country for about eight years after graduating college before she and her husband, both of whom were raised on the West Side, settled down in the Atwood neighborhood to raise their two children.
How long had you been working at the Center for Cooperatives?
I started there in ’96, so about 21 years. I was involved in all aspects of the things the center does, which is research, education and co-op startups. All focused on the co-op form of business. I taught a class for undergraduates and was involved in a lot of work with cooperative boards of directors, helping them with strategy and understanding their financials, just sort of all parts of trying to get a co-op to be a successful business.
What drew you to co-ops?
My father was an attorney here in Madison, and he actually had done a lot of work with co-ops in his career, so I always knew about them, and he worked with both ag co-ops in Wisconsin, dairy co-ops, and also helped to start Union Cab and some of the co-ops that are around now.
I always kind of heard about them at the kitchen table, so I was interested.
What interests you about the Public Market project?
I was asked, even in 2005 as part of the Center for Co-ops, to help with the original feasibility study for the Public Market. It wasn’t necessarily a co-op, but it was aligned very well with those values that I had been engaged with, and then as it’s developed here in Madison, it’s really become also a strong community economic development vehicle.
I’m also extremely interested in the opportunity markets provide for startup entrepreneurs and people who may not have the opportunity to start a storefront.
How does it feel to see the project where it is as it has been discussed for more than a decade?
It feels really, really good, and one of the reasons it feels so good is that we’ve not only had a lot of interest on the fundraising side, but clearly there’s a huge amount of interest from just the community at large … I think the heart of the market is the vendors. That’s really where we need to focus, and when you talk to people around the country about markets, they’re super impressed with Madison, because we have a vendor list of almost 200 who have filed preliminary applications.
What are some public markets you’ve seen?
We were in conversation with the Milwaukee public market back in 2005, 2006, when they were getting started. I’ve been to the public market in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and met with them, a beautiful market. They do a lot of really imaginative events, lots to learn there.
Then I’ve been to some of the traditional markets like in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston where they got really long-standing markets … It’s funny, a lot of that was as a tourist.
— Interview by Logan Wroge