Construction is underway on the $6.7 million renovation and expansion of the Eastside Food Co-op at 25th and Central avenues, continuing the modest comeback of the once-languishing main commercial artery of northeast Minneapolis.

The 5,200 member-owners of the 12-year-old co-op raised more than $1 million in equity. And the growing business recently closed on a $4.6 million loan from Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Durham, N.C.

This is a job-creating deal in a neighborhood where an estimated quarter of the households live at or near the poverty level.

“Central Avenue has come far over the last 10 years,” said longtime Eastside General Manager Amy Fields. “We’re one of the smaller, but a growing co-op. Our expansion means we can greatly increase our impact … both for our members and for the community.”

Fields said local bankers were sympathetic but couldn’t underwrite the deal because of its high real estate loan-to-value ratio in an area where property values have been depressed by vacant and underutilized buildings.

Self-Help Federal, founded in 1980, is a U.S. Treasury-designated Community Development Financial Institution that, in addition to loans, can use federal tax credits and other tools outside of standard underwriting guidelines in pursuit of revitalizing once-blighted areas.

The first step in a complicated deal for Eastside was to buy a vacant building next door for $425,000, plus another $135,000-plus for demolition and pollution remediation. Eastside is renovating its 1954 structure, once a Country Club grocery store, into an attractive, energy-smart building and expanding from 12,200 square feet to 17,700 square feet. The 78-employee business also will add 25 jobs at $12.65 or more an hour.

The Eastside Co-op block, near the critical intersection of Lowry and Central avenues, has undergone a resurrection. More than a decade ago the immigrant Wadi family started buying dilapidated commercial storefronts and turned them into Holy Land enterprises: restaurant, food service, bakeries and even Minnesota’s first hummus factory in what was Sully’s Bar. More than 150 jobs were created.

This is just the latest expansion by a Twin Cities co-op. It follows the expansion to a second store this year by the larger Seward Co-op. Mississippi Market just opened a third store in St. Paul. The co-ops, supported by loyal neighbors and owner-members and boasting high sales per square foot, are growing amid the struggles in a no-growth industry among big-box food peddlers such as Cub and Target.

Former General Mills analyst named Tech Dump CEO

Amanda LaGrange, who started as a volunteer board member in 2010, is the new CEO of fast-growing Tech Dump, the two-location electronics recycler that also employs folks with criminal backgrounds or other barriers to employment.

LaGrange, 30, an accountant, was working as a financial analyst at General Mills when she left in 2013 to become Tech Dump’s marketing director. She joined founder Tom McCullough, a successful Internet retailer who started Tech Dump as a “social enterprise,” focused on reusing or recycling valuable and sometimes-toxic electronic components out of the waste stream.

“I love the idea of using business as an opportunity to solve big challenges like poverty and injustice with a business model.

“I chose to work for General Mills given their great reputation for giving back to the community,” LaGrange said last week. “I also knew that before I could have an impact at a social enterprise, I needed to build a firm business foundation.

“In 2012, I started volunteering about 10 hours a week with Tech Dump, focusing specifically on partnerships and building the Tech Dump name. Over the past two years, in addition to growing our business, I also became more involved in the general business management of our organization. We are accomplishing the important work of responsibly recycling electronics while also providing vital training for adults facing barriers to employment. I love using business as an opportunity to solve big [environmental and employment] challenges.”

Tech Dump, which employs 43, this year will process 5.5 million pounds of electronics or about 40 percent more than 2014.

It recently received the industry’s “Responsible Recycling” or “R2” designation through an independent three-day audit to verify that it meets rigorous environmental, data security and worker-safety standards.

Tom Wood Automotive finishes big expansion at Richfield facility

Richfield Bloomington Honda has replaced its old store with a new, 165,000-square-foot facility.

This two-year project included demolition of the old Honda dealership, as well as the adjacent Richfield Bloomington Mitsubishi dealership on W. 77th Street, and construction of two new dealerships under the same owner, Tom Wood Automotive.

The new construction cost was nearly $30 million, according to permits filed with the city of Richfield.

“In order to meet the needs of our growing client base, we built a larger, state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, updated facility,” said General Manager Tim Carter of Richfield Bloomington Mitsubishi.

The new, three-story Honda facility is growing from 97 employees to an estimated 180 by the end of this year.

In addition to a sparkling building, new energy-efficient features include a specialized boiler that burns waste oil, a carwash that will recycle and reuse most of its water, LED light fixtures inside and outside and “the only metro dealership with sidewalk frontage creating that small town window-shopping experience.” This is not your father’s Honda dealership.

Little will reboot brand for Ryan Companies

Little, the Minneapolis branding agency, has been hired by Ryan Companies to update and refresh the image of the 75-year-old Minneapolis-based construction and development firm. Little’s assignment is to develop a new brand strategy for Ryan, as well as an identity. Rebranding plans include a new website and interactive sales tools. This is a significant win for Little. Ryan a national developer, builder and real estate manager, is developing much of the Downtown East office and residential complex, and also is behind facilities such as CHS Field in St. Paul and Shutterfly’s new Shakopee facility.

Earlier this summer Little was honored by the trade journal Ad Age as its Silver Midwest Small Agency of the Year.

Associated Bank names new Minnesota leader

Angela O’Neill, a 10-year Associated Bank veteran, has been promoted to commercial banking market leader in Minnesota for Wisconsin-based bank. O’Neill, who will split time between offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul, most recently was the corporate banking team leader in St. Paul and before that was a commercial relationship manager in St. Paul.

Before joining Associated Bank, she was with U.S. Bank.