At the end of June, the Seward Co-op announced that it was planning to open a new location in the, south Minneapolis, Bryant neighborhood. The MPR reports that community members are divided on if the co-op will be a positive addition to the low-income neighborhood. There aren’t any full service grocery stores located within the neighborhood, which has certain residents saying that they would be happy with the new Seward Co-op. Being that the neighborhood is low-income, other residents are worried that the store wouldn’t be affordable and outside of their budgets.
The Seward Co-op website gives the following definition of a co-op: Cooperatives are member-owned, member-governed businesses that operate for the benefit of their members according to common principles agreed upon by the international cooperative community. In co-ops, members pool resources to bring about economic results that are unobtainable by one person alone.
The Seward Co-op has already signed off on a purchase agreement for property owned by a local church. The new co-op is planned to be located at East 38th St. and Clinton Ave. South. Before the doors of the store can be opened, the city needs to give the Seward Co-op permission to use the site. Another hurdle that they are facing is obtaining financing. They plan to have everything squared away, with the store open, within two years.
Property, city permission and a building means nothing if the Seward Co-op doesn’t have the backing from the local Bryant neighborhood community. To help sell residents on the idea of a Bryant neighborhood co-op, Mike Stebnitz has started a knock campaign. He goes from house to house, talking to anyone who will listen and answers any questions residents might have about the co-op. Stebnitz, a resident of Central neighborhood, is a local developer and co-founder of the group Carrot Initiative. Stebnitz has been trying to help the Bryant neighborhood residents understand the positive aspects of co-ops and that it will be owned by the people who shop at the store.
The Seward Co-op website also states that: Most food co-ops are consumer cooperatives, meaning that most retail co-ops in the U.S. are owned by the people who shop at the stores. Members exercise their ownership by patronizing the store and voting in elections. The members elect a board of directors to hire, guide and evaluate the general manager who runs day to day operations of the retail store.
The group aims to bring a grocery store to the area so residents will not have to go elsewhere. Currently, residents have to travel outside of their neighborhood in order to be able to shop at a full service grocery store. Because of low-income, certain residents have to travel by bus to reach these stores. “You can imagine, doing that in the winter on a bus with several transfers, lugging groceries, particularly with kids in tow. It’s a real challenge,” said Stebnitz.