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Sep 26, 2010 08:36 AM

Twin Cities co-op's ??

Looking to join a area co-op it would be great to hear some feed back, pros/cons of the of of the TCs co-op's, many thanks for any and all replies.

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  1. I belong to 2; The Wedge on Lyndale in Uptown, and Seward which is on Franklin, close to Cedar. The Wedge is larger and has more services than Seward (larger meat and fish counter, more groceries, and a larger produce area), but I also like Seward as they have a larger cheese selection and it's much easier to park.

    1. I've shopped Mississippi Market (though, not as much at its new location), Seward, and the Wedge, all of which I think are pretty great in terms of co-op basics, you know, local produce, bulk grains.

      Miss Market has a tiny, tiny meat section. Seward does great house-made sausages (and I agree that they have a nice cheese section), but their seafood always looks terrible. Just go straight to Coastal Seafoods instead. I think the Wedge does a bit better with "exotic" grocery ingredients (olive oils and vinegars and such), although, maybe I just think that because at the time I was doing a lot of ethnic cooking, the Wedge was most convenient to me. I feel like the Wedge's seafood is better.

      But, I'm pretty sure all of the co-ops in the Twin Cities will honor each others memberships. That is, if you are a member of, say, Seward, and you're shopping at the Wedge, they will give you the member prices anyway. What doesn't transfer across co-ops are any kind of annual dividends you get refunded. So, I'd say, join the one you think you will spend the most at so you get the most dividends back, and then shop at whichever one you like. (I know Mississippi Market--in addition to dividends--gives 10% off coupons, max $10 and most dairy is not eligible, to its members maybe 6 times a year. You might price compare membership vs. annual coupons, too, to see which is a better value for you.) Good luck!


      Coastal Seafoods
      74 Snelling Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105

      1 Reply
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Yes, if you buy into one co-op they will honor your discount at another. Membership at Seward is $75, and the Wedge $80, though you get discounts up to $45 a year, plus a yearly rebate if the co-op is profitable (I think last year we got a check for about $15), so really, your only paying about $20 for the first year, not including member discounts and coupons.

      2. We shop at Mississippi Market, primarily because we live in St Paul so it is most convenient. We shop at the one on Dale/Selby. I wish they had a butcher/larger meat section but it's good enough, especially since one can go to St Paul Farmer's Market year-round to get meat directly from the farmer. Seward and the Wedge are also great, have shopped at both periodically, my mom belongs to the Wedge. Haven't been to the Linden Hill co-op or the ones in the suburbs but have heard good things about most of them. I'd just go with the one that is most convenient to you! Unless you want a good meat department (Wedge) or great cheese selection (Seward, like people have said).

        1. Here is a listing of the area co-ops and links to their websites:

          Linden Hills just opened a nice new store. The Wedge is considered to be a "gold standard" for co-ops all over the country. Seward's deli (meat and cheese) are very highly regarded. I belong to Lakewinds and enjoy both locations.

          It really depends where you live and what is most important to you.

          6 Replies
          1. re: BPfahnl

            BPfahnl, I'm curious about the basis for your "gold standard" comment? Can you tell us more? (I'm not challenging that comment; I'm intrigued by it...)


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              RE: the gold standard comment. I've heard that the Wedge makes more money per square foot of store than many many stores nation wide. They are always busy, the cashiers are friendly, speedy, and knowledgeable. And on the topic of the Wedge's yearly dividend check- it is around 1% of what you spent during the previous year, so it can even equal the $80 you spent to join if you shop there a lot.

              1. re: faith

                While it's interesting, the fact that they make a lot of money doesn't mean they are "the best", necessarily. I'll bet Whole Foods makes a lot of money, too.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ, I said they make more money PER SQUARE FOOT than many many places. That means they are very popular and very efficient at using their space. 'Gold Standard' means something concrete to compare, being 'the best' is not going to be something other than a subjective assessment. Other parameters to judge by....I find the Wedge's prices to be among the lowest, at least for produce. I often notice Linden Hills' prices to be higher on many things.

                  ULtimately , each shopper is going to have a subjective set of 'likes' and 'dislikes' about each co-op that affect which stores they deem 'good' or 'the best'.

              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                I lived out east for many years and worked for a fund which did a lot of lending to food co-ops throughout New England. I had the great fortune to spend time with a lot of co-op managers and they would often refer to The Wedge, as well as the Hanover Co-op in NH, as ones to emmulate. Yes, they are financially successful, but I think their true value has been to go "outside the box" and fulfill their mission in other ways.

                The Wedge purchased an organic farm (Gardens of Eagan) when the owners wanted to retire from farming. There was not a buyer and The Wedge wanted to preserve it as one of the regions largest organic farms. It is probably the only co-op in the country that owns an organic farm, at least one that produces significant amounts of produce.

                The Hanover Co-op in NH had a bustling co-op with parking lot woes much like The Wedge does. It was bursting at the seams. After much research they opened a second store just a few miles down the road from their first store. They did not close the first store, which would be the more traditional way of carrying out an expansion. Both stores do just fine, and the first store still has an over-flowing parking lot. The Hanover Co-op has used its mission to guide it in other bold moves as well. Not driven by financial goals, rather by mission.

                I believe that one of the beauties of co-ops is that if they are wildly successful financially that income either goes back to its members and/or it is used to enhance services to its members and shoppers. More education. Expansion. Money to support safe food systems. Whatever its membership and board decide is important. Each co-op can decide what its primary mission and goals are in that regard.

            2. Member of Mississippi Market here, as well.

              I enjoy shopping at other coops just to see what's different. My take is that they all have something different to offer. Nothing scientific; just observations. For example, with the possible exception of the Wedge, Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville seems to have the best baking-needs section I've seen in a coop. Wedge has a huge deli. Seward seems to do well with dairy products ("raw" and prepared).

              Wedge is an overall great coop, but it's not near everybody and parking there is about as much fun as catching a splinter (at least when I can get there on weekends).

              Mississippi Market, like Lakewinds, has two locations. MM's West 7th store has a significantly larger meat section (recently expanded) than the Selby store. The stock is a little different between stores; don't know if that's the case for Lakewinds as well.

              There are a few coops in town (Hampden Park comes to mind) which are NOT part of the TC Natural Foods Cooperative and, so, will not share member discounts and such. Hampden Park is a comfy little coop, limited by its size to what it can offer, but I like the vibe there. IIRC, Hampden requires members to put in some hours of work (someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that). Most other coops have forgone the work requirement out of difficulty in scheduling, continual training, liability, and consistency of service.

              One of the tenets of cooperatives is community; it makes sense to me to shop primarily at the closest coop and range out (and elsewhere) as necessary. The Twin Cities is blessed with a bunch of good coops; you really can't go wrong with any one you choose.

              Valley Natural Foods
              13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

              5 Replies
              1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                I am a member of Hampden Park, and while little, they usually have almost everything I need (we don't each much meat, so don't really notice the tiny expensive meat selection). The bulk selection is great, and they're really responsive to member requests for specific products. You don't have to work t be a member, but you do have to volunteer if you want discounts. 3 hrs per month for 15% off, 6 hrs per month for 21% off, and 12 hours per month for 28% off. The work can be shared between up to three people in the household, so if my husband and I work a 3 hour shift together, that counts as our 6 hours for the month.

                We like Hampden Park :) It's quirky, but everyone is really friendly and the food selection is great.

                1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                  Good points, Steve. And I should have mentioned Mississippi Market too. I don't get to St P often, but love wandering around the new store. Actually I'm a food co-op nerd and love wandering around co-ops everywhere and see what's interesting and different. I think the Twin Cities may be the best "food co-op community" in the country. We are blessed with many great co-ops.

                  1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                    steve -- what kinds of special or additional baking things do you see at the Valley Natural Foods store in Burnsville (if anything in particular occurs)?

                    I may need to make a trip out there. karykat in st paul.

                    Valley Natural Foods
                    13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

                    1. re: karykat

                      Well, given that I was never "the baker" in the house and really am not that much on baking in general, I'm not the best guy to ask. :-) But stuff that I'm not used to seeing on MS Market's shelves tends to leap out at me. I have seen things like *real* marshmallows at VNF and it's one of the few coops in which I've ever seen xanthum gum as an ingredient. They also carry a wide variety of grain flours (wheat, amaranth, rice, etc.).

                      It's easy to get to VNF (right down 35E) and worth a trip before the snow flies.

                      1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                        Good to know. Thanks. I used to make regular treks to Burnsville for baking supplies from Sweet Celebrations (kind of bizarre combination of really neat baking stuff and very unchowish stuff) before they went out of business. So I may just check them out.

                        Sweet Celebrations
                        1870 Beam Ave, Maplewood, MN