Good Grocer secures new home on Eat Street

Volunteer Victoria Bobell at Good Grocer, which will build a new store on Nicollet.

Good Grocer has landed a new location in Whittier, and the store will close for several months while a new store is constructed at 2644 Nicollet Ave. S.

The current Lake Street store is approaching a deadline to move out, and the last day of operation is Feb. 11. The store will be demolished to make way for a new southbound I-35W exit ramp to Lake Street.

Good Grocer acquired the Nicollet Avenue site in August with the help of major donors. Estimating a new store size of 8,500-9,500 square feet, staff expect to double the produce, meat and organic sections and provide a larger community space. The current store is 5,500 square feet.

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The new design is still in development. The site is located in a pedestrian-oriented overlay district that requires at least two stories in new construction, and staff are mulling whether to build two stories or seek city approval to build only a single story. The site would include some surface parking, and a bus stop is located in front of the property.

“We needed to be within five blocks of here and have easy access to public transportation,” said Good Grocer spokesperson Stacie Bortel.

First & First marketed the Nicollet Avenue site as part of a “creative real estate portfolio,” and the site previously provided 70 parking spaces for the Icehouse and Vertical Endeavors. CEO Peter Remes said apartment developers made competing offers, but he decided to lower the price and sell to Good Grocer.

“We got to know their story, and it’s a really compelling story,” Remes said. “We wanted to make this work for them.”

Good Grocer offers storewide 25 percent discounts to members who volunteer a two-and-a-half hour shift each month. Lower labor costs allow the nonprofit to reduce prices for all walk-in customers. It’s grown since 2015 to encompass about 500 volunteers and 150 daily shoppers.

“The neighborhood is literally running the store,” said Good Grocer founder Kurt Vickman.

In the new store, he anticipates that volunteers will take a more active role in finances, administration and orders. He hopes the new store becomes better known for its produce selection.

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“It’s affordable, but it’s the highest-quality produce in town,” he said. “The store will feel more centered on that.”

Good Grocer recently reached a settlement with Hennepin County to help fund the relocation. Vickman continues working to seek rent abatement from the county as the store closes for business.

Danny, a staff member who declined to share his last name, said it’s a bummer to see the store shut down for a while, although he said the new location will be larger and closer to the epicenter of where many volunteers live.

“This place provides a pretty critical service to the community,” he said.

Pending city approval, staff hope to break ground in the spring and open the new store in late 2018.