Whole Foods Co-Op branching out with second storefront

Whole Foods Co-Op (WFC) of Duluth has seen continual growth since 1970. From the start, WFC’s location has changed a handful of times, but now they look to expand.

“We have exceeded the capacity of this site, much sooner than we expected,” said Sharon Murphy the general WFC manager, “The logical thing would be to see if we could continue to grow with an additional location and to serve more parts of Duluth.”

In the 2012 fall issue of the Garbanzo Gazette, Murphy wrote that WFC owners would have a more definite answer to the new location after the annual meeting on Oct. 26.

Now with the meeting just  weeks away, Murphy said the location has yet to be finalized. She said she wishes the process could be more transparent, but disclosing locations will cause monetary complications with potential real estate.

“Saying that you are interested in a site publicly…it immediately changes the value of whatever site you said you were interested in,” Murphy said, “The last time we went through this process in order to come to the current location, we had to look for seven years because we publicly made the commitment to a specific part of town; suddenly there was no property we could afford in that part of town.”

Murphy said WFC is being very careful on what they disclose in this process, but by the end of the Oct. 26 meeting they will begin contacting realtors to move forward with the addition. She said she hopes to narrow down the options to one or two locations and for construction to begin within a year from now.

“All we’re doing now is taking information from people. If they want to state their preference we are tracking it,” Murphy said. “We have conducted a formal study; it gave us a number of sites, and we’ll be talking to our owners about them later this month. We’re continuing to take information from the community in where they would like to see us.”

Duluth Mayor Don Ness, WFC member, said he is, “excited about the prospect of a second location,” and is, “convinced that their second store will be just as successful as the first. “

When asked where he thinks the new store should go, Ness pointed to an area in Duluth that is lacking in healthy food access.

“There are several neighborhoods that could benefit from a new grocery store, but none more than the Lincoln Park neighborhood,” Ness said. “I’d love to see it go there, but I trust the board and staff to make the best possible decision on a location.”

In 2011 a group of professors conducted a survey for those experiencing what is known as a food desert in Lincoln Park/West End.

According to the USDA, a food desert is “a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.” After the government shutdown, check out the Food Access Research Atlas to see areas lacking in fresh, healthy food.

The study found the food desert has a negative impact on the health and economy for the residents with 10-15 percent of surveyors experiencing “significant barriers to accessing food.”

“I think that it's time to get businesses back into more neighborhoods so people aren’t relying on transportation so much that it’s the only option they have to get to more grocery stores,” Murphy said.

Murphy said community members asking where the best location is for the new WFC should also consider where they would like to shop; not just where there’s a need.

“Would you shop at it? Would you support it if it were there?” Murphy said.

Murphy encourages community members to join the discussion of WFC branching out by submitting suggestions through email, phone or at the stores current location where you can give WFC “your $0.02.”

“Wherever we go, we want the people who live there to be happy that we’re there,” Murphy said.

Where do you think the new Whole Foods Co-Op should be? Join the conversation on Twitter using #newWFCduluth

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