Biz Buzz: Crow Wing Food Co-op plans move to former Hockey House in downtown Brainerd

Destination Downtown contest finalist moves closer to goal of expanded business with a modern take on the food co-op and healthy options for people on the go.

Blue skies dominate Friday morning, May 8, on Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd where the former Hockey House has new tenants. The Crow Wing Food Co-op, winner of the third and final Destination Downtown Business Challenge, signed a 10-year lease for the building, which was once the Downtown Art and Frame. The co-op plan is to be moved into the new site and open this summer. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

The most recent Destination Downtown Business Challenge winner will be moving into a prominent downtown Brainerd building.

The Crow Wing Food Co-op will now be on the same street as the two previous winners of the Destination Downtown contest, which galvanized hundreds of entrepreneurs to submit proposals during the past three years.

The co-op recently signed a 10-year lease for the Laurel Street building that served as home for the former Hockey House and the Downtown Art and Frame business before that. Rhonda and Brian Smith, building owners, who operated the Downtown Art and Frame and the Bead Box, closed their businesses in 2012 for a move to North Dakota during the oil field boom. A year ago, Dan and Amy Anderson decided to leave the 80-hour work weeks behind and retire and closed the Hockey House. Since then, it seemed a likely spot for one of the Destination Downtown winners or finalists — and now it is.

The corner building on Laurel Street had two major attractions for its newest occupants — space to grow and considerable parking.

GALLERY: Vision for the new site Renderings provide a look at what the new Crow Wing Food Co-op in Brainerd could look like with the fresh design, which were created by Widseth as the co-op took part in the Destination Downtown Business Challenge in 2019.
Jennifer Jacquot-DeVries is a Crow Wing Food Co-op Board member, is chair of the capital campaign and was the author of the co-op’s business expansion plan submitted for the Destination Downtown Business Challenge. Last week in a phone interview, Jacquot-DeVries said they are working on securing funding for the project and have already received grants to assist. Construction is expected to cost $250,000 with most of that going to equipment such as the $75,000 for the walk-in cooler system and displays.


Jennifer Jacquot-DeVries is a Crow Wing Food Co-op Board member, is chair of the capital campaign and was the author of the co-op’s business expansion plan submitted for the Destination Downtown Business Challenge. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

The co-op is in conversations with the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. and is reaching out others for financing to purchase the coolers and deli equipment. Jacquot-DeVries said the hope is to secure the funding in the next month or so and open this summer. Also in the works is a crowdfunding campaign and attracting individual donors and fiscal sponsorship with Brainerd community Action for charitable tax-deductible donations. A lifetime family membership is $150 and can be paid in one lump or in installments. Jacquot-DeVries said all those membership dues to fund the project as well with the plan to pay off the debt in 6-12 months.

RELATED: Crow Wing Co-op claims top prize in Destination Downtown challenge
The next step is to connect with HyTec Construction in Brainerd to get a final update on construction cost.

Jacquot-DeVries said the goal with the move is to expand year-round fresh food access to a part of the city where it isn’t readily available. A modern, expanded Crow Wing Food Co-op with more retail space, healthy food options ready to eat and space for cooking classes are all part of the vision.

Deluxe Corp, which helped fuel the start of the contest and provided funds and expertise for the grassroots community initiative, designed a new logo for the co-op and is building the co-op a new website. An updated awning is planned for the exterior.


The new logo for the Crow Wing Food Co-op came with the assistance of Deluxe Corp.

One thing that did change since the co-op submitted its business plan is the deletion of a proposal to include a rentable commercial kitchen. Jacquot-DeVries said there are two such kitchens nearby and there was considerably more interest expressed for use of a commercial kitchen than is experienced to date by those looking to rent that space. Removing the commercial kitchen also took out a big expense and big challenge for licensing.

RELATED: Destination Downtown: Crow Wing Food Co-op explores expansion, modernization
Jacquot-DeVries said the focus instead will be on installing a demonstration kitchen for classes, which can show people how to prepare fresh whole foods and how ingredients can be used to create dishes for affordable healthy food. The long-term plan is to take the backspace behind what the Hockey House used and install the kitchen there for classes and produce items the co-op can sell as well.

“We did look at several places, but to be honest this was always our intention,” Jacquot-DeVries said of the Hockey House building. She said it took longer to sign the lease and they carved out an additional 500 square feet from the back space to create a public restroom, office and dry storage space. “The landlords have been very encouraging,” Jacquot-DeVries said.

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A rendering shows how the new awning will look for the Crow Wing Food Co-op for its new location on Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd. Submitted photo

The walk-in cooler system will go in the retail area and in space where Dan Anderson used to sharpen skates. The building has apartments upstairs. The Art and Frame is retaining 1,500 square feet of space but in a couple of years, Jacquot-DeVries said, the Smiths may be open to releasing that space as well with the co-op having the first option to buy the building if it goes up for sale.

“This space has always been our intention,” Jacquot-DeVries said, adding no other site has as much room, as open a layout and the amount of parking right by the building.


Work on the building is getting back to its bones, as the carpet is being pulled up exposing concrete and marble underneath.

“We’re really excited to be part of the downtown destination,” Jacquot-DeVries said.

The co-op is currently on the corner of Washington and Eighth streets.

As an essential grocery, it has been operating during the shutdown to slow the spread of the pandemic. They’re operating under slightly reduced hours with five core people working inside. The first hour is reserved for the elderly and those at high-risk.

“I think there are a lot of people who found value in the co-op,” Jacquot-DeVries said. “We have a lot of new members who came in March so our sales have been really steady and increased to some degree.”

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at


Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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