LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – By now, you have heard the incredible news; The People’s Food Co-op is saving our buns! Well, the Fayze’s buns, breads and baked goods that we as a community have come to love and cherish.
Fayze’s closed its doors in downtown La Crosse earlier this year and with that news came shock and dismay. For 4 decades our community had been gathering at, celebrating with, partying in, and enjoying everything Fayze’s was and provided. We all grieved the loss of one of our favorite eateries and hangouts. Then, when the shock wore off and we began to live with the decision, we asked, “What about the buns?”
That is where Lizzy Haywood and her team at the People’s Food Co-op came to the rescue. She says when the news about Fayze’s closing broke, they started talking to the owners, Drew and Kelsey Williams. They talked about taking over baking operations and how that would look and work. Over the course of the last two months, they crossed the t’s and dotted the lower-case j’s and have brought the bakery operations back up and running. As of last Friday, The People’s Food Co-op was offering Fayze’s baked goods. Haywood explains, “Friday morning, I sat here (at the front of the store) and watched as people started to realize that the bread was here. And, oh my gosh, that was exciting. People were saying to the cashiers ‘You have made my day!’ How awesome is that? This is a hard business and you don’t always get the wins. That was exciting. We have already felt it for sure. It’s been really fun already.”
I am not sure I can fully articulate the herculean effort that an undertaking like this truly is. Coordinating the transfer of one entity and facilitating the manpower, overhead and all the variables that could possibly cause an issue with the transfer, in that amount of time, is unheard of. I can’t even think of an analogy that would make sense and allow you to fathom how much had to fall into place for this to happen as quickly and as (knock on wood) smoothly as it has. However, according to Haywood, it just kind of made sense. She explains, “This Co-op has always been about finding the things that serve our community’s needs. It’s not a store that serves one kind of thing or one group of people. So, this was a community need. It was like, ‘Can we do it?’ Yes! We are really good at baking. We’re a really good employer. We’re right here. And is this going to be a community need? Yes!”
And they are letting other places experience those famous baked goods! The Co-op has a location in Rochester, Minnesota and they have already started selling the Fayze’s goods there. Plus, with the kind of reach that the Co-Op has, and the organization they already have in place, putting those goods in communities that haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a Fayze’s bun is also on the horizon. Haywood says, “Because of the vendors and the distribution networks that we have, we can get a little farther out in the region. We can see going to Winona, a little farther south and spreading it farther outside of La Crosse County.”
It isn’t lost on me that the People’s Food Co-op, and more specifically, Haywood, is the one keeping our beloved buns available. In speaking with her for less than the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, it became clear that Community (capital C intended) is at the center of what she truly cares about. I asked her what she, personally, gets out of running the Co-op and, with a bright and warm smile, she said, “The thing that makes me happiest is when someone can put something in their carts that makes them happy. In the summertime, it’s the local watermelon. Or, in the fall, it’s a local cider. Or it’s the bread that they have loved since they were a kid and now, they get to eat as an adult and share with their kids. I really love that.”
It’s also the money that comes back into our community. Haywood said that many of the farmers they work with, work in sustainable ways on their farms. Haywood explains, “It really does make a difference. For instance, many of our farmers are working in a sustainable way on their farms. They’re making a bigger difference on the riverbank and reducing erosion and their kids are going to school here. All these things that are truly building up the community. They seem really small in the huge scheme of the world but they make a big difference here. That is what I love about the Co-Op and what makes it really important for a lot of people.”
Next in the process of re-integrating Fayze’s baked goods into the community, is talking with the other organizations that utilized them. If you are thinking to yourself, “Well, yeah… but what about that place I loved to get sandwiches from that used Fayze’s bread? Or that other place that had them?!” Don’t worry, Haywood plans on reaching out after the holidays. It seems a little daft to say be patient when referencing an organization that was able to accomplish such a large undertaking in a matter of months… but… that is what you must do. Be patient. Things are moving forward.
Until then, take a trip down to the Co-op to get your Fayze’s fix. Then take a minute and look around. Especially if you haven’t been to the Co-op or haven’t been there in a while. You might just find something that treats your stomach kindly while adding to the sustainability of the community you live in. And, if you’re there at the right time, you’ll get the pleasurable experience of a quick chat with Lizzy Haywood. I promise you won’t regret any of it.