Kowalski’s closes G.J.’s grocery on Nicollet; shuttles to nearby store planned

The Stevens Square neighborhood has lost a major grocery store, and the neighborhood group is working with Kowalski’s Market to create a twice-a-week shuttle service to another store to help residents lacking transportation.

Kowalski’s recently bought five G.J.’s grocery stores, including the one at 1816 Nicollet Ave. S., which it closed May 18. The company cited a bad layout, poor equipment and the short time left on the lease as reasons for its decision.

Landlord Bob Marshall has discussed plans for a major housing and retail redevelopment at the site, and Kowalski’s would consider returning to the neighborhood once the redevelopment is complete, said Bob Kowalski, marketing manager.

"There is good potential down there, possibly in the future," Kowalski said. "At this time, we want to concentrate on our other stores, get them up and running."

Doug Kress, executive director of the Stevens Square Community Organization, has been negotiating with Kowalski’s to provide rides to the Kowalski’s at 2440 Hennepin Ave. S.

Kowalski’s would pay for the van, SSCO will coordinate it, he said.

At deadline, the two sides were still negotiating the timing of the van runs. Kress said he would like to have one weekend and one weeknight run.

Dale Riley, chief operating officer of Kowalski’s, said the Kowalski family believed the buses were one way to show its civic responsibility. But the times sought by SSCO would be difficult logistically.

"Our busiest times are evenings and weekends," Riley said. "To accommodate a busload of people both specific times might not be optimal. I’m guessing one morning and one afternoon a week."

Marshall said it is too early to tell what might go in the former G.J.’s and Kowalski’s space.

"We are on a search for a tenant," he said. "With development on the horizon, you can’t give a 20-year lease to somebody. You are caught between two stones."

Marshall would love to have a grocery store, and would talk to any grocer interested, but the old equipment makes it unlikely, he said.

For more information on the Kowalski’s shuttles, contact SSCO at 871-7307.