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 for the co-op’s Destination Downtown Business Challenge application.
The co-op points to its ability to attract dozens of daily shoppers and continue to help the revitalization of downtown Brainerd, the impetus for the business challenge.
“Through additional outreach, community education and widespread local business partnerships, we believe an expanded, modernized, health-focused CWFC can simultaneously help to improve the vitality of Downtown Brainerd and the well-being of Crow Wing County,” the business plan noted.
The Crow Wing Food Co-op was founded in 1979 and now has about 1,300 members. The co-op board noted it is one of the oldest food co-ops in the state and continues to add members, although shoppers do not have to be members.
Board member Jennifer Jacquot-DeVries prepared the application for the co-op, a cooperatively owned grocery store specializing in local, organic and allergen-free foods that directly links consumers and growers. The grocery store includes a bulk food section, allowing it to also serve as an option for those looking to cut down on packaging. The co-op sees an economic benefit from supporting multiple small, local businesses.
The co-op proposes to expand its retail space, prioritize pastured meats, organic products and locally grown produce. It would include a mini cafe and smoothie bar to provide more options for quick, prepared food and beverages and healthy choices made more convenient as grab and go and ready to eat -- sandwiches, salads, soups, coffee.
Jacquot-DeVries wrote the current leadership envisions an expanded co-op with retail space offering a greater variety of food could build on its existing customer base and membership offering pastured meats, organic products and locally raised produce. Creating the deli is something the co-op notes that members have long desired.
“Additionally, aiming to support the growth of more local food production businesses, CWFC will work toward the long-term goal of building a full, certified, rentable commercial kitchen, as well as a community education space to offer classes on cooking with whole, nutritious foods and developing healthier eating habits.”
Jacquot-DeVries also pointed to providing a grocery store with locally grown food in a downtown neighborhood where people could walk or bike to as well. She said the co-op currently has between 40-90 shoppers per day on average.
“Buying local food is a powerful act,” Jacquot-DeVries said.
While shoppers don’t have to be members, there are incentives for members. The co-op operates at cost so any excess profits can go back to members.
Jacquot-DeVries said the co-op’s strength comes in its history of 40 years in the community. Jacquot-DeVries said she sees opportunities with partnerships such as Crow Wing Energized, the grassroots group aimed at creating a healthier community. Other potential partnerships include local schools and education opportunities looking at how to cook good healthy food and prepare quick, delicious, and easy snacks, Jacquot-DeVries said.
“I’m excited about this opportunity,” she said.