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The current Whole Foods Co-op is on East Fourth Street in Duluth. Whole Foods is planning to open a second store in West Duluth. (2013 file / News Tribune)

Whole Foods Co-op picks West Duluth for second site

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business Duluth, 55802
Duluth News Tribune
(218) 723-5295 customer support
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth has chosen West Duluth for its much anticipated second store, after considering numerous locations in the greater Twin Ports area.

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The co-op's board of directors on Monday night unanimously approved the purchase of property at the corner of Grand Avenue and 45th Avenue West where the store will be built.

"We've gotten a lot of calls from people happy with the decision, so that feels really good," said Sharon Murphy, the co-op's general manager. "I think it's going to be great, and our market study strongly supports it."

The site is across from Denfeld High School.

The building on the site, currently used as the Jefferson Lines bus station, will be demolished. The bus line plans to move to the Duluth Multimodal Transportation Center downtown when it's built. But since the construction of the center hasn't begun, it probably will have to move its bus station somewhere else sooner. Whole Foods plans to close on the property in June and plans to demolish the building and build a new store.

Murphy declined to reveal the purchase price, which includes several additional lots for the one-acre site. But she said it's significantly less than the $1.5 million the co-op paid for the site of its current store. Other parcels were later acquired for parking, boosting the cost to $1.7 million.

"We feel it's a real good deal, because we've been extremely successful here," Murphy said.

The new 7,000-square-foot store is expected to open sometime in 2015.

The members-owned Whole Foods Co-op decided last year to open a second store. It had grown dramatically, since it moved to a new, highly energy-efficient building at 610 E. Fourth St. in Duluth in 2005. Membership has ballooned from 2,500 to more than 7,600 members, while annual sales have grown from nearly $5 million to $15 million last year, Murphy said.

The co-op started its site search considering the area from Cloquet to Two Harbors and Hermantown to Superior. It hired Dakota Worldwide of Minneapolis to conduct a professional site study to determine which area was most capable of supporting a co-op offering whole and organic foods from regional producers.

Those sites were narrowed at the same time co-op members were surveyed on where they would like to see a second store.

"Our membership overwhelmingly said the west side of Duluth," said Shannon Szymkowiak, who is in charge of co-op promotions and education.

So the site search focused on that area.

Working with a Realtor, the co-op narrowed the possibilities to two locations -- a vacant lot at 29th Avenue West and Superior Street in Lincoln Park and the 4426 Grand Ave. site. The Lincoln Park site was less expensive but in an industrial area and not on a bus line, which was one of the requirements.

The Grand Avenue site appeared perfect. It's in a highly visible location in a commercial district, on a bus route, easily accessible with a large parking lot, with an area for truck deliveries and more than two miles from the current store.

"There was no need to vote," Murphy said. "We just agreed on the site."

The Whole Foods Co-op, established in 1970, is cooperatively owned by members who make a one-time $100 equity stock investment. Anyone is welcome to shop there, but members get discounts, a voice in the business and may get rebates at the end of profitable years.

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Candace Renalls
(218) 723-5329
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