The Seward Co-op is experiencing a major growth spurt.
Less than five years after moving into a spacious new facility on E. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, the 41-year-old member-owned natural foods store has announced plans to open a second location.
The site of the second store, at E. 38th Street and Clinton Avenue S. in Minneapolis, is across the street from the Sabathani Community Center and a block east of I-35W.
The store will replace Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, a city-owned empty lot and up to three residences. The site is smack in the center of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified as a food desert, an urban neighborhood where a significant percentage of residents live without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.
Although the co-op’s goal to create a second location is the culmination of a three-year study, the 38th Street project has moved quickly. In February, the co-op was approached by the Carrot Initiative, a nonprofit working to lure a full-service grocer to the Bryant, Bancroft, Central and Powderhorn Park neighborhoods. By April, the co-op was negotiating a purchase agreement with the church.
“It’s so exciting to see this opportunity come to our neighborhood,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who represents the ward where the new store will be located.
“We have to thank Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, which is very mission-driven and has always said that they would look for something good when they sold their property.”
Store design is in the preliminary stage, but Seward General Manager Sean Doyle said it will be roughly the same size as the co-op’s E. Franklin building.
Financing for the estimated $10 million project is expected to come through traditional bank sources, tax credits and a $1.5 million capital campaign to members.
The co-op has recent experience with a major building project. In early 2009, Seward moved eight blocks to the east, trading up from 9,100 to 25,600 square feet. Growth quickly followed, with annual sales jumping from $16 million in 2009 to a projected $30 million when the store’s fiscal year closes at the end of the month.
Membership has similarly increased, from 4,500 in 2007 to a current level of 11,000.
“We continue to see about 100 new members a month,” said Doyle.
The store currently employs 220 — up from 100 five years ago — and the new store is projected to initially add an estimated 100 workers to the payroll. “Our goal is to create as many living-wage jobs as possible,” said Doyle.
Seward isn’t the only Twin Cities natural foods co-op in expansion mode. Lakewinds Natural Foods, which operates stores in Minnetonka and Chanhassen, has announced plans to open a third location in Richfield, as part of a larger housing-retail development on the site of the former Lyndale Gardens on Nicollet Avenue and 64th Street.
Seward is planning a community meeting on July 9 (details will be posted on www.seward.coop). Doyle said that if all goes as planned, the second Seward Co-op could be open in 18 to 24 months.
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