City Council to continue discussion with grocer over former Kmart site
In need of some groceries – fresh meat, organic items, a specialty cheese or bread? How about an aged bottle of wine to pair with that meal? Interested in speaking with a dietician, picking up medications, buying flowers for a loved one or taking a cooking class?
All of those and more will be offered if Hy-Vee, a unique 24-hour grocery retailer, expands into the Twin Cities Market.
The company recently made the public announcement of its plans to expand with a special interest in the former Kmart site in New Hope as one of its future locations. The expansion would add several new stores per year in the area.
While no commitments have been made by the New Hope city government or the West Demoines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, discussions continue.
“Our commitment to excellent customer service, health and wellness, and culinary expertise is unlike anything in the market to date,” said Randy Edeker, chairman, CEO and president in a written public announcement. “Minnesota and its residents have long been important partners, and we are proud to extend that partnership into the Twin Cities area.”
The project, if approved, will be constructed by Anderson Companies, a comprehensive building and development service.
“It’s our belief and our hope that this could be the catalyst to kick off phase two and three,” said Kent Carlson, CEO of Anderson Companies.
Carlson is referring to City Council’s desire to redevelop not only the former Kmart site but the area to the east of that lot. While those projects are merely hopes at this time, the council is still interested in having companies that will create development concepts for those additional spaces.
Hy-Vee at a glance
Hy-Vee, well-known to the Midwest, has 235 stores among eight states including Minnesota. They have been in business since 1930 and continue to grow and succeed.
Its success can be partially attributed to its unique model. Hy-Vee is an employee-owned company meaning each employee shares in its profits.
“When a store director is given a store to run he shares in the profits made by that store,” said Phil Hoey, director of real estate for Hy-Vee. “The only condition is that he shares those profits with the rest of his employees.”
According to Hoey, for the first time in company history part-time employees will also receive benefits.
“We think that once you give ownership to each level (of employee), the level of customer service increases,” Hoey said. “When you ask where Cheerios are they don’t just say ‘aisle five,’ they walk you to that aisle.”
Hy-Vee is the second largest employee-owned company in the U.S. next to Publix Super Markets, according to The National Center for Employee Ownership.
“We’ve been in the health industry for many years,” Hoey said. “We have full-time registered dieticians to help our customers find the right dietary needs.”
According to Hoey a store may open with as many as eight chefs.
Minnesota currently has 17 Hy-Vee locations, which provide roughly 5,100 jobs. Hy-Vee has been in the Minnesota market since 1969.
The New Hope store would provide roughly 600 jobs. According to Hoey, the company typically hires mostly younger people looking to land their first job, but these kids are no slackers. The company searches for students in extracurricular activities and those who are involved with the community.
“We want the best people,” he said. “Customer service is a key component to our success and without great people you can’t do that.”
The proposed 90,000-square-foot facility will include not only your typical grocery items but will be surrounded by specialty boutique-style shops.
Hoey says as guests enter they may likely be greeted by a fireplace and seating area.
The middle of the store will appear as your typical grocery store but the outside perimeters will look much different.
Specialty departments will include a full-service floral department, full-service kitchen complete with Asian and Italian food, yogurt or salad bar, full-service gelato, sorbet and ice cream shop, bath and beauty section, Artisan-crafted breads baked fresh daily, specialty cheese shop featuring cheeses from more than 190 countries, full-service meat and seafood department, health market stocked with organic and gluten-free foods, clinical and dietary services, chefs and cooking classes, a wine, beer and spirits shop and full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We’re trying to create an atmosphere where people don’t just come, get what they need and leave, they come and hang out with friends and neighbors,” Hoey said.
Hy-Vee also looks to buy its produce from local farmers if possible and shares the origin of foods openly with customers.
While the facility will likely not provide enough available space in its parking lot to host the annual farmer’s market, the company is interested in speaking with area farmers to see if they would like to supply the store with their products.
Located near the south end of the parking lot is
A fuel station is being proposed near the south end of the parking lot, a small convenience store for quick stops, a car wash and a coffee shop.
While most of the City Council looked forward to continued discussion with Hy-Vee, Councilmember Daniel Stauner struggled to see the proposal as the best option for City Center.
Stauner was most concerned about the cost of the project and whether Hy-Vee would have a positive impact on phase two and three. He also believed the city was not in dire need of a grocery store since there are several located in close proximity in neighboring cities.
Although he believes the new store would generate increased traffic at first, he is not sure it would remain consistent at drawing residents beyond the intersection of Winnetka and 42nd avenues.
Councilmember John Elder was more optimistic, and Councilmember Eric Lammle shared his enthusiasm.
“I’m also pretty excited to begin the conversation,” he said. “We’ve shared our vision for City Center and I think this is a bit different than our vision. Obviously our community is pretty strongly supportive of having a grocery store.”
Councilmember Andy Hoffe agreed it was something residents have been asking for ever since he joined the council and it provides a gathering space as well.
The council is not overly thrilled with the fueling station and car wash on site, but the company appears to be willing to discuss those types of concerns with the city.
City staff are hoping to host an open house within a month or two for residents to visit, learn more about the company and proposed project, ask questions and voice concerns. A date is yet to be determined.
“I know our citizens are really anxious to be a part of the discussion,” said Mayor Kathi Hemken.
If the discussion remains positive and supportive moving forward and the project is eventually approved, Anderson Companies is hoping to begin construction this year.
For now, Anderson Companies plans to be back in front of City Council at the March 10 Economic Development Authority meeting to sign an agreement stating the two parties will work together over the next six months to develop site plans.
For information, questions and concerns contact New Hope City Hall at 763-531-5100 or visit hy-vee.com.
Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]