After three years on hiatus, Good Grocer opens again on Friday, Jan. 22. Kurt Vickman was forced to close his original location due to the expansion of I-35, but now he’s back in the game with a brand new spot on Eat Street, just five blocks from his old site.
He asks one question: Can a grocery store change the world? Their mission is to bring fresh, good food to the community, while making it accessible and affordable to everyone. How do they do that? It’s a volunteer-run organization, so the drastic saving on labor costs allows them to price groceries far below what traditional stores might. And if you volunteer, you get an additional savings on top of that.
But here’s the most important thing to take away: YOU SHOULD SHOP THERE, even if you’re not pinched. “People think that if they shop here, they are taking away from someone in need, but that’s not the case. We are a fresh store, we need to keep turning product or things go bad or go to waste,” Vickman told me, “Every dollar that’s spent here goes back to furthering the mission.” It’s like a big bus, everyday shoppers can be the fuel in the tank so that the bus can keep giving others a lift.
This new store is bigger and brighter than the original and it’s allowed them to bring in new opportunities. There is parking behind the building, and when you come in they have fresh grab-n-go items along with cold drinks and hot foods.
A big piece of their mission is getting fresh and often organic produce into the store. “Right now 50% of the products in the store are natural, and we have 10,000 products. Not bad, right? We doubled the size of our produce section and we have a massive organics section now.” They’ve got all the yogurts, cheese, frozen meats that you’re used to seeing too.
At the front of the store, with its own entrance from the street and from the store, is the Food Outlet. Open on Saturdays, this portion of the store will be accessible to people who apply for it, as the prices will be 50 to 75% off the regular low price. “If you have food insecurity over quantity or quality, you just have to sign up. You get a six month membership and a Food Outlet card, and it’s kind of like Costco. You can come in and do your shopping in your own little mini-store.”
And remember, shopping here fuels that food outlet. Vickman mentioned that some days they might have a BOGO (buy one give one) where a ramen pack you purchase for yourself will send a twin product into the Food Outlet for someone. The product mix includes traditional grocery items among the more natural offerings. He showed me a shelf which was stacked with some brands I’d never seen before. “We’re going to tag some things as Good Certified. These will be products that we’ve vetted as not only good for you, but doing good in the world. Like this box of granola bars, you buy this box and it helps send life-saving food to a child in need. We are sourcing and vetting them as companies committed to doing good, so people don’t have to wonder where their money is going.”
And remember, it’s all because they harness the power of volunteers, some 600 of which are needed to keep the store functioning. Sign up to work in the store and you may find yourself cleaning, restocking, cashiering, doing inventory and all of that translates to lower cost groceries. In fact price tags on items will show two numbers, the guest cost and the volunteer cost which will be 20% lower. And all it takes is a little of your time, just 2.5 hours every four weeks.
Good Grocer opens at 27th and Nicollet at 7am on January 22! Go grab a coffee, buy some produce, get your granola bar on while putting some good into the world.