Hoping to join a wave of grocery co-op expansions in the Twin Cities, Eastside Food Co-op at 2551 Central Av. NE. in Minneapolis has purchased a building right next door.
The co-op, which is seeking to raise $1.5 million by June 30 to launch a $6 million expansion, last month succeeded in purchasing a vacant commercial-residential property just to the south of the store, situated between itself and the bustling Holy Land Deli. The contract-for-deed purchase of the Love Lines building was made for $425,000 on May 7.
Eastside Co-op Board President Manisha Nordine and General Manager Amy Fields said the plans include razing the building and replacing it with much-needed parking for an expanded Eastside Food Co-op.
“We were having a really hard time trying to figure out how to more than double our sales floor [from 4,150 to 9,600 square feet], get our 65-foot trucks on the lot and still have adequate parking,” Fields said. “We kept trying to fit everything together, and then that site became available. It was almost like a miracle.”
Fundraising for the project continues with appeals to co-op members and others for stock purchases and/or interest-yielding loans. About 21 percent of the goal had been reached by Monday. If successful, the Eastside project would add to a spurt of food co-op expansions across the Twin Cities that are capitalizing on the growing consumer and lifestyle trends of demanding locally sourced, organically grown food.
For instance, Lakewinds Food Co-op is readying for the opening this month of a new store at Richfield’s Lyndale Gardens; the Wedge Community Co-op is renovating a former Asian supermarket on Nicollet Avenue into a commercial kitchen and cafe; and Seward Community Co-op is set to hold a groundbreaking next month for its new Friendship Store on E. 38th Street in Minneapolis.
Along Central Avenue, the hoped-for expansion of the Eastside Co-op would add to a mini-redevelopment boom in the corridor, which a decade ago was dominated by forlorn, deteriorating storefronts.
Near the key intersection with Lowry Avenue, momentum first generated by the success of Holy Land has continued with the efforts of the NorthEast Investment Cooperative to transform a vacant commercial building at 2504 Central Av. NE. After Recovery Bike Shop landed there as an anchor last year, Aki’s Bread Haus opened last month with the Fair State Brewing Cooperative and taproom to follow this summer.
Far less attractive, however, was the Love Lines building at 2535 Central Av. NE. While not exactly dilapidated, the hodgepodge, one-time funeral home had fallen into significant disrepair before it was offered for sale to small group of potential buyers, including the co-op, in a nonpublic sale.
At the rear of the tile-roofed building is a two-story house built in 1927, with an attached, two-story commercial addition tacked onto it in the 1930s. For many years, the commercial building was the Buchinger-Gearhart Funeral Home. In the 1970s it was converted into a real estate office and by 1991 it had become the Love Lines Christian prayer and crisis ministry.
Faced with a lack of parking space for an expanded co-op, Nordine said the idea of buying the Love Lines building — or at the least renting space there for the co-op’s administrative offices — was first discussed a year ago. Inquiries were made to the ministry, initially without response.
But after Love Lines ceased operations in the building in November, its owners indicated a willingness to sell.
“When the option finally came up, we were ready to go,” she said. “It was more than on our wish list. … It was on our dream list.”
Don Jacobson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and former editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal.