Blaine seeks high-end grocery store

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

The city of Blaine knows there’s demand from residents for more grocery store options in Blaine.

One of the big tasks for Blaine Economic Development Coordinator Erik Thorvig is recruiting new businesses, although the city would be limited on what it could do in private market transactions when no city land is involved.

But considering the ongoing interest from residents and the Blaine City Council in getting more high-end grocery stores in Blaine, Thorvig reached out to representatives from six different companies to gauge their interest in the community. He shared the feedback at the May 11 council workshop.

Thorvig contacted Hy-Vee, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, Kowalski’s, Lund’s/Byerly’s and Trader Joe’s. He was unable to reach anyone from Trader Joe’s before the May 11, but he did get responses from the other five companies.

According to Thorvig’s summary, Hy-Vee is actively searching for a site in Blaine. In general, he said Hy-Vee is looking for 14 acres with the possibility of having a liquor store and gas station as part of the development but they did not indicate whether those would be deal breakers for a site.

“Our hope is not if but when with Hy-Vee,” Thorvig told the council. “We know they’re doing their due diligence.”

A real estate representative for Whole Foods indicated they would not be building any new traditional stores in Minnesota after their Woodbury store is complete. But the company has a new 365 by Whole Foods concept, which is a smaller store selling products at lower prices. This concept has yet to come to Minnesota, but Thorvig said the representative indicated Blaine might be a good fit.

Fresh Thyme is looking at opening a store in Coon Rapids, but said they would look again at Blaine if that store does not materialize, according to a conversation Thorvig had with a Fresh Thyme real estate staff member.

Kowalkski’s real estate staff member said the company is busy with a major remodel of its Uptown Minneapolis store on Hennepin Avenue and just opened a store in Shoreview last fall and is not looking at doing anything new at this time.

Lund’s and Byerly’s is also currently holding off on any expansion plans, Thorvig said.

Council Member Dick Swanson has been impressed with the Festival Foods stores he has seen in Wisconsin and said it would be worthwhile to talk to even more grocers to see if they could bring a new quality store to Blaine.

Council Member Andrew Garvais would like Thorvig and Blaine staff continue to work hard to recruit a high-end grocery retailer to Blaine. The city rents a tent each year at 3M Championship in Blaine each year and hosts prospective developers. He would like the city to invite grocery retailers so the city can do another recruiting pitch.

“I think this will be a good year to lock down one of these,” Garvais said.

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