These days, Richfield is known around town as the corporate headquarters of a certain blue and yellow big-box electronics retailer. It’s the city you drive past on your way to the airport or the Mall of America. But the first-ring Minneapolis suburb comes by its name honestly. A century ago, Richfield’s fertile soils grew much of the food consumed by the residents of Minneapolis. This history as a farming community is in part what made Richfield an appealing location for Lakewinds Food Co-op’s third store.
Lakewinds was founded in Minnetonka in 1972 to provide locally grown natural and organic foods. Their ties to local farming are strong. So strong, in fact, that the co-op originally sold organic crops grown by one of the founders in her suburban backyard. As a cooperative, Lakewinds is member owned (a one-time $90 investment will get you a share, but doors are open to members and non-members alike) and democratically run for the benefit of the member-owners and the community at large. Lakewinds espouses a strong commitment to “environmental and social responsibility” and strives to keep money and jobs in the community.
Searching for a location for their third store (the second opened in Chanhassen in 2005), Lakewinds commissioned a study to pinpoint an area where residents lacked ready access to local, natural, and organic food. Richfield was determined to be one such location. Around the same time, developer The Cornerstone Group was working with the city of Richfield and community partners to create a town center based on the principles of active, healthy living in a natural and sustainable space. The project, known as Lyndale Gardens, was a perfect fit for Lakewinds.
This weekend, June 28 and 29, after four years of planning and preparation, Lakewinds will celebrate the grand opening of their Richfield store at 6420 Lyndale Ave S. They will forgo the standard ribbon-cutting ceremony for a more mission-appropriate butterfly release. The weekend will be jam-packed with balloon artists and face painting for the kids, live music, and free Peace Coffee samples and house-baked Coconut Rochers.
On a recent visit to the co-op, we found all hands on deck, getting ready for the big opening. The shelves are stocked with non-perishables and the produce section, butcher counter, deli, and bakery are set up and waiting to be stocked. Everywhere you look, there are literal signs of Lakewinds’ dedication to community partnerships. A stainless steel kegerator sits in the bulk aisle, ready to dispense three types of kombucha tea (ginger, pink robot, and a rotating seasonal) from Verdant Tea. Lucia Watson of Lucia’s fame was enjoying a tour, having personally dropped off a sampling of her upcoming line of handmade products (coffee, granola, dog biscuits, etc.) to be carried exclusively by Lakewinds. Signs hang in a corner of the store near the deli indicating where Breadsmith breads will be found.
At an in-house Peace Coffee cafe, jittery soon-to-be baristas are in training (and already well-trained, if a rescued practice coffee is any indication). This will be Peace Coffee’s second location, and the first full-service coffee bar operating inside a co-op in Minnesota. The partnership with Lakewinds, as Peace Coffee CEO Lee Wallace summed it up, gives Peace Coffee the opportunity to “extend their value chain from growers all the way to the consumers.”
In a show of community support that extends beyond the store walls and the well-known names, Lakewinds is initiating a partnership with the Linden Hills Farmers Market to purchase any remaining stock directly from the farmers when the market closes each week. This will expand Lakewinds’ sources for local produce and offer smaller local farmers a chance to scale up their production, knowing that if they bring too many radishes to the market, there will be a buyer waiting to scoop up all their surplus. Lakewinds plans to eventually bring this partnership to other nearby farmers’ markets.
Setting aside for a moment the merits of shopping for the greater good, Lakewinds Food Co-op is beautiful store. The 22,000-square-foot modern building, designed by Charles Levin Architects, sits on the former site of the Lyndale Garden Center, which closed in 2006 and had fallen into disrepair. The interior is bright and vast. The aisles are wide enough to push two carts abreast with elbow room to spare. The logo and signage, all designed in-house, are fun and colorful. Conveniences abound in addition to the grocery offerings. There will be a 100% organic salad bar, a deli, a sushi bar, the Lakewinds Bakehouse (helmed by Andy Mooney, formerly of Patisserie 46), the aforementioned Peace Coffee, a wellness section with everything from natural makeup to baby products, and a roomy cafe with ample space to sit and enjoy a meal and a neighborly conversation.
Greg Dick, the store manager, put it best: “It’s a great store, but it’s the people that differentiate us.” The co-op’s values and decades-long history are always in sight, spelled out on signs and illustrated on two murals commissioned by Minneapolis’s muralist laureate Adam Turman. The exterior mural depicts a bounty of fruits and grains bordered by Lakewinds’ symbols for “peace, love, and farming.” In the cafe sitting area, a second mural features a vista of rolling hills, with Lakewinds’ original location (known affectionately as the “Red Shack”) and Lakewinds’ newest location on the road to Minneapolis, all ringed by fruits, vegetables, grains and flowers.
The co-op is the first component of Lyndale Gardens to be completed. Construction on the public amenities will begin this summer, including an outdoor stage, a seasonal splash pad / ice-skating rink, and a bridge connecting the area with a walking path around Richfield Lake. There are plans for 150 units of family housing (a mixture of market rate and affordable units) and 10,000 square feet of local restaurants and local shops. The town center will be easily accessible by bicycle and public transit. Cornerstone is working with Richfield and community partners to create a place where people of all backgrounds can gather. “Great communities happen where art and nature and healthy living come together in one place,” said Colleen Carey of The Cornerstone Group. It’s a lofty vision, and Lakewinds is a defining first step.
Lakewinds is not your hippie uncle’s dusty, patchouli-scented co-op (though you’re bound to bump into him here). Rather it is positioned as a welcoming and mainstream alternative to both high-end and value grocery stores. If the steady stream of curious onlookers passing through the parking lot is any indication, the community is ready join Lakewinds in a mutual embrace. And situated two scant blocks south of the Minneapolis city limits, Lakewinds is poised to once again make Richfield the breadbasket for the city to the north.
Lakewinds Food Co-Op, Richfield Location, 6420 Lyndale Ave. South, Richfield, MN, 612.814.8000