The Re-Rise of the Local Grocery in Shoreview

Our local grocery wasn’t really very local. It was a 68,000 sq ft Rainbow big-box that closed last fall. This made our nearest general grocery a big-box Cub Foods (90,000 sq ft?) that is three miles farther away (there is also a Fresh & Natural about a mile away that we use often but it does not carry many items). There are good separated bikeways all the way to Cub Foods but at over five miles each way, that’s a bit much for grocery runs by car or bicycle.

Rainbow Shoreview

Looking north from Highway 96 W at the now empty Rainbow. The emptiness of the parking lot is largely unchanged. A café with lots of windows and entrance in the SE corner (right side of this view) would help aesthetics and overall feel of this area.

The good news is that Kowalski’s is exploring a 20,000 sq ft retail grocery and 45,000 sq ft bakery operation where Rainbow was. The bakery is a back office operation that will provide baked goods to all of their stores throughout the Twin Cities.

Note: Europe has had a comparatively short run with big-box grocery stores. Tesco, Carrefour, and others expanded into the big-box format after the U.S. and are quickly reverting back to standard formats (5,000 – 20,000 sq ft) due to both demand from customers and municipalities that don’t like the centralizing and increased traffic caused by consolidated big-box stores.

The large white area in the upper left (NW corner) is Rainbow.

The large white area in the upper left (NW corner) was Rainbow. Directly east of that is a DQ, south of DQ is a tunnel car wash and a BP gas station.

We need a local grocery. At $1 per mile, driving six extra miles round trip to Cub Foods gets expensive. It’s also time consuming and generates more traffic, noise, pollution, and increases the probability of injury and death.

Perhaps most important is that local grocery stores are more than just a place to purchase food–they are a critical element of community life. This is where people most often come into routine contact with their neighbors. There is a vast difference in shopping at a local grocery frequented mostly by your neighbors and shopping with 50,000 strangers from all over.

We want better food options. Online, folks in this area have made clear their desires for better eating and drinking options–quality cafés with locally prepared food from fresher and healthier ingredients and good cappuccinos. A brewpub also seems a popular request. Good and healthy eatery options are sadly lacking in this area, with many people driving daily to White Bear Lake or St. Paul (Selby Avenue, Grand Avenue, Downtown) for meals.

Parking lots are unappealing. They don’t look nice nor feel welcoming and are worse when mostly empty. They also don’t generate much tax revenue. During the entirety of its existence I don’t remember ever seeing the Rainbow lot more than half full and even that was only once or twice per year when a greenhouse was taking up a chunk of it. It always felt deserted.

Looking west towards the featureless and always deserted east facade of Rainbow. (DQ's red roof on the left.)

Looking west towards the windowless, unwelcoming, and always deserted east facade of Rainbow. (Dairy Queen’s red roof is on the left.) (image: Google Streetview)

Eyes on the street. Writer Jane Jacobs made us aware of the importance of eyes on the street–for appeal and safety. A blank windowless wall like the east side of the old Rainbow building above is not only unappealing and unwelcoming but feels and is unsafe. Vagrants like places with few eyes to see what they’re doing. There is also comfort in seeing other people–walking by on Hodgson will be more appealing and comfortable if we see a cafe and windows and people going in and out on the east side of this building rather a blank wall.

Some thoughts:

1) A small café or two along the east side (image above) and southeast corner with ample windows and sidewalk seating. These would be facing Hodgson Road and Dairy Queen and should be entered from outside and NOT from inside the grocery. This will make this area much more appealing and safer and hopefully provide the better quality and healthier food that people desire.

2) A retail grocery facing 96 with as much window as possible. The current facade of a blank wall with a minor bit of doors and windows in the middle is not very appealing.

3) Eliminate unneeded parking, add a café or brewpub and some trees. An outbuilding café or brewpub would have numerous benefits including more people and eyes in this area and increased tax revenue for Shoreview.

3a) Include safe and efficient access for people walking and riding bicycles as well as bicycle parking (and ideally covered).

4) What to do about trucks from the bakery operation? Presumably there will be a number of them delivering supplies to the operation and delivering baked goods out to Kowalski’s stores. A lot of them through the Hodgson & Village Center intersection between 5:00 AM and midnight would be both unpleasant and dangerous. This especially with how many people walk and ride bicycles through here. If they are largely limited to before 5:00 AM, this might not be an issue. Another and perhaps preferred option might be to have them enter directly from Highway 96 along the western edge of the property, though this could be problematic for those to the west.

The Future

This will all immediately make this part of Shoreview more appealing, welcoming, and safer–a place that people want to go instead of where we’d go but not very enthusiastically. This will help Shoreview compete with other places that are becoming more welcoming and inviting communities instead of a hodge-podge of strip malls, big box stores, and traffic.

What will this area look like in five or ten years?

The BP station on the northwest corner of Hodgson and 96 is likely not too long for this world. The number of gas stations has declined by 35% over the past 25 years and this is accelerating with more electric and fuel efficient cars hitting our roads. What will go there next?

The future of the car wash may also questionable. While the car wash industry as a whole is stable, tunnel type washes appear to be declining. Car owners increasingly prefer either touchless drive-in wash bays that don’t damage paint or a full service hand wash. Both of these require less space. Then again, this is salty, slushy Minnesota. If it survives it may require half the space it currently uses.

This area will likely change a bit in the future. We need to think about that future and possibilities and not only how it will be with just a Kowalski’s.

Other thoughts and ideas?

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN

33 thoughts on “The Re-Rise of the Local Grocery in Shoreview

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

    Similar to this project in Shoreview, the 55,000 sq ft Festival Foods in nearby Vadnais Heights recently closed. It is being replaced by a 22,000 sq ft Fresh Thyme Farmers Market which is welcomed both for being a local grocery and for what appears to likely be much healthier food options than Festival offered.

  2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

    (Note: This was in response to a comment that has been removed).

    BP does fairly well today but that will very likely change in the near future. US retail motor fuel consumption peaked at about 143 billion gallons in 2007. By 2012 this had declined to 134 billion gallons. Three things will accelerate this decline in coming years; more fuel efficient and hybrid cars, more all electric cars, and increased walking and bicycling for local transportation in place of driving.

    Auto service revenue will begin to decline as well with newer cars being more reliable and electric cars requiring near zero drivetrain service and with the primary service being replacement of the battery pack or motor which for the foreseeable future will continue to be fairly exclusive to the manufacturer.

    The outlook does not look good for BP.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      (Note: This is in response to a comment that has been removed)

      I like the folks at that BP but the future doesn’t look good. Nobody is going to say “gee, these guys just put in new tanks so even though an electric car is better I’m going to buy a gas car to keep giving them business”. Good choice not to have done more. Perhaps they saw what was coming and hedged their bets.

      They’re not along though. This isn’t unlike the auto companies who’ve been scrambling to catch up. Tesla and to some extent Nissan took them all by complete surprise. The number of ‘they’ll never be able to do that’ comments from auto industry folk that have had to be taken back is rather amusing. The Chevy Bolt is likely a direct response to the threat GM sees from the Tesla Model 3.

      The benefits of electric cars are simply too great; much lower cost of fuel (approx 1/20 the cost of gas per mile), lower maintenance (somewhat offset by battery pack replacement every 250k miles or so but overall still much lower), no oil changes, no pollution, less noise, and likely lower manufacturing costs sometime in the next few years. As more options for all electric cars become available and people become more comfortable with the technology it will become difficult to justify purchasing a gas car.

      1. mplsjaromir

        GM sold 2.9 million vehicles in the US last year, Ford 2.5, Toyota 2.4. Tesla sold 22,500. Tesla is growing at about the same annual rate as Jeep and Jaguar/Land Rover sales (25%). Hybrid and electric vehicles are less than 1% of all sales.

        Manufactures make many models specifically to fit CAFE average fuel efficiency standards, not because Tesla is going to overtake them. Electric cars will be more common, but decades from being the obvious choice over ICE vehicles. I doubt that gas stations will be obsolete anytime soon (30 years).

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          We’ll see. As I mentioned in Mike Hicks Post I think current sales percent is quite amazing considering how new the technology is, how extremely few viable BEV’s are available (realistically the Leaf, BMW i3, and Model S), and how limited the charging infrastructure still is.

          Mindshare alone will take considerable time. A year ago I’d guess that 80% of Minnesotan’s weren’t even aware that a BEV was an option. That’s seemed to have changed dramatically today. I think most still think a BEV is a out-there strange vehicle not for normal people. That will likely change considerably over the next year.

          Specific to Tesla, they just turned up their second line this past fall so now have about a 120k vehicle per year capacity. Optimistic Musk was predicting 100k cars for 2016 but I’m guessing reality will be closer to 90k. They have apparently already begun buildout for lines 3 & 4 that will be dedicated to the Model 3 with a total of 240k per year (beginning in mid 2017?) as well as a likely Model 3 line in The Netherlands (2018?).

        2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          I think that similar to the move from CRT’s to flat panels, DVD’s to online, and perhaps more so from film to digital, we’ll see a similar growth curve for BEV’s. Options are quite limited today but a year from now someone shopping for a new car will have several fairly affordable 200 mile BEV’s to choose from (Bolt, Leaf, Model 3, and others) as well as higher end options beyond Tesla. Most will have seen a number of BEV’s driving around and likely know someone who has one and likes it. There will be many more charging options seen around and they’ll take comfort in that.

          The benefits of a BEV over an ICE will, I think, become quite obvious and the decision to buy a BEV will be more palatable. Just like we don’t see places to develop film or rent DVD’s much anymore, we’ll see fewer and fewer places to buy gasoline.

          1. mplsjaromir

            Electric cars have been offered since the earliest days of automobiles. The problem lies with electric cars is the energy density of its fuel. Unless there is a dramatic increase in how much energy a battery can hold, ICE will be the obvious choice for most.

            There is no equivalency of Moore’s law of semiconductors that applies to batteries. Growth in capacity is linear, and significant physical infrastructure has to be in place for current level of technology to work. One thing to remember is that the average age of an automobile in US is around 12 years. Even if the government mandated that all vehicles sold today were pure electrics, you still have a long time before they became dominant.

            Electric cars for a while will be expensive exotics for those with idiosyncratic tastes. Nothing wrong with that, but electric cars have serious compromises.

      2. Monte Castleman

        Can batteries go 250,000 miles now? If so, it should ease one concern about electric cars; the previous figure I heard was 100,000 miles, and people expect cars to last longer than that without an enormous repair cost? 250,000 miles is about the lifetime of a decent gasoline engine, so that at that point people are used to just scrapping the car and in this climate it’s probably falling apart from rust anyway. I finally let my old Jeep go at 210,000 miles when holes appeared in the floor.

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          IIRC 2008 & 2009 Tesla Roadsters have about 85% capacity after 100k miles. Model S has a better battery mgmt system and maintains about 88-90% capacity after 100k miles and looses about 1% of capacity each 30,000 miles thereafter. That was the older anode though. The newer anode in the 90 is expected to be better.

          A lot depends also on how you use it. Those who generally maintain a charge of about 20%-60% (roughly 80 miles of use per day for a Model S that begins the day @ 60% charge and ends at 20%) and only charge above that once a month or so for a longer trip are reporting very minimal to no measurable range loss compared to those who frequently charge to over 95%. So, while Tesla use to recommend charging to 90% each day they now recommend 60% for longer battery life.

  3. Monte Castleman

    $1 a mile seems to be on the high side as far as the cost of driving. I always figured it was more like 50 cents a mile, and the top Google result is 59.2 cents a mile. To me 5 miles does not seem excessive for a weekly (or even twice a week) grocery trip in a car. There’s a Festival Foods a mile away from me but I’ve never been in there because it’s not too far to drive 5 miles to Walmart. j

    My perception is also that Big Box grocery stores are on their way out, or at least to becoming less prominent. They combine the inconvenience of driving to and getting in and out of a huge store and not being able to buy a pair of socks at the same time with the higher prices of a smaller store. The broader selection isn’t worth the trade-offs to a lot of people.

    I know that there was too much parking but that was Rainbow. Would the same reality hold up for Kowalski’s, their bakery, and your proposed other developments?

    And it’s not that tunnel car-washes damage paint, they’re just too expensive when you can get the same results in a self-service bay.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

        Yes. Direct run about $0.46 – $0.91 per mile from AAA for 2015. I’d guess these are a bit lower today with lower gas prices. Indirect includes road build/rebuild/maintenance, law enforcement, crash costs not covered by insurance, etc.

        1. Chris Lange

          If anyone is paying anywhere close to $1.00 per mile, they need a different. The life time of car is way less than $100,000 and should easily be more than 100,000 miles.
          Cost car (new) – $25,000
          Cost of gas ($3/gallon which it isn’t right now, 25 mpg) – $12,000
          Maintenance – $10,000 (that’s probably high)
          Insurance (10 year) – $7,000
          That’s only $54,000 and I think I’m guessing high.

          The BP isn’t going away. I live a mile away and know exactly 0 people that own an electric car. And it isn’t going to change fast.

          The Kowalski’s though should be awesome.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Big Box grocery is also on the way out because the additional “selection” is largely of stuff you don’t need and shouldn’t buy (i.e., processed foods), which people seem to be starting to realize.

      1. Hillary

        I don’t entirely agree – I cook quite a lot, and I find myself going to three grocery stores on the same day once a month. I go to the Shoreview Supertarget for staples (because they’re usually the lowest cost), then I go to Trader Joe’s for specialty items that no one else carries, and finally I stop at Cub at 96 and Centerville road for the things Target doesn’t carry (like canning jar lids without rings or the olive bar).

        I could get almost everything at Cub, but the extra miles on my car cost less than the marginal cost of buying everything there.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          now that I no longer love next to a Lunds, I make more than one stop sometimes too. But I wish I didn’t have to.

          I’d not do it to save a few cents though. My time isn’t free and I’m lucky enough to not have to.

          1. Hillary

            It usually works out to at least 20% – for me it’s worth it for my big ~monthly trip. Cub is 25-75% higher on a lot of my staples.

    2. Monte Castleman

      Unless the distance to the grocery store is what you base the decision on whether or not to own a car on, it’s probably not fair to included fixed overhead like tab fees and insurance in deciding whether or not to drive to the grocery store. But you might be right, I never figured it out for myself.

      Also the cost of driving is going to vary wildly depending on how you do it. Do you by a Lexus SUV and trade it in every three years, or buy a $1000 Corolla and drive it until it breaks down and then buy another one.

  4. Scott

    Congrats on the Kowalski’s. They run a fine grocery store. The central bakery is a nice catch as well. Extra jobs filling the space with almost no additional traffic.

    I don’t see Kowalski’s putting up with a restaurant with an outside entrance. I wouldn’t allow it if I was them. What I would allow is enhanced seating for the Kowalski’s bakery and deli, maybe even with additional outdoor seating, and a way to access the deli with some penetration through the store but maybe not putting it at the back of the store.

    I hope you are right about the BP, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. You need to be for all of our sakes, but I suspect less than 1 percent of the population really recognizes how quickly we need to stop pumping oil and mining coal (yesterday would have been a little too late).

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      “I don’t see Kowalski’s putting up with a restaurant with an outside entrance. I wouldn’t allow it if I was them.”

      Why? How would this be different than having a grocery store in a strip mall with a Caribou next door and a Chipotle next to that (other than food quality)?

      1. Monte Castleman

        In the strip mall the Caribou and Chipotle are probably owned by someone other than a grocery store. WIth Kowalski’s, unless they lease some extra real estate to outsider, that’s not going to happen. I realize this is your fantasy saying what you’d like to see, but in the real world if Kowalski’s puts up a Chipotle or Caribou they’re going to want inside access so customers can stop and buy a cup of coffee while taking a break from shopping, or maybe buy some snack food on their way out from Sunday lunch at the restaurant. Similarly having extra doors facing the street is going to be rather inefficient from a layout perspective.

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          I don’t think many people stop for a cup of coffee while shopping. They might do so before or after but not during. For grocery shoppers then it will often make little difference if there is an inside entrance or not? This especially if the walk from the grocery entrance to the café entrance outside is covered so lessening problems of rain or snow?

          A café inside a grocery does not attract many non-grocery customers though. Especially if it has no connection to the outside. A café in the SE corner of the old rainbow building with only an inside entrance and no or few windows will attract extremely few outside customers. Add a bunch of exterior windows and it will do a lot better. Add an appealing outside entrance and it will do much better still.

    2. Monte Castleman

      I think probably 99% of the population realizes we need to quickly stop pumping oil (Well, OK, maybe just the majority of them, certainly more than 1%). But as was noted in the previous article the problem right now there’s just not an alternative that the majority of Americans would accept until an electric car that can go 200 miles on a charge, will recharge in a reasonable amount of time, and doesn’t cost a bazillion dollars comes along. I believe in climate change and I believe we should get out of the Middle East, but there’s not a good alternative right now.

  5. Monte Castleman

    Statistics for the number of gasoline pumps (as opposed to gasoline stations) might be interesting. Near me SuperAmerica has 16, and a Holiday built about 15 years ago has 12. Meanwhile five that had 4-8 pumps have closed (one had more than that but no-one ever stopped there because they didn’t have card readers at the pumps. When the landlord kicked out SuperValue to sell the building to the developer that built the Holiday, there was a lot of anger in the neighborhood since Byerly’s was too expensive for most of the residents, but the city pointed out that a gasoline station was allowed by the zoning so they couldn’t say no. They did however note that gasoline stations had gotten a lot bigger since the zoning when into effect so maybe it was time to look at allowed uses going forward.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Yes. There has been consolidation and that accounts for some of gas stations that have closed. I wasn’t able to find anything on total pumps but I’d guess that isn’t down nearly as much as the number of stations. What is telling though is that the total amount of gasoline sold at retail has been falling since 2007. Part of that is people driving less and part due to more fuel efficient cars. It’ll be interesting to see if it increases with the slight uptick in driving we saw in 2015 or if the increase in electric cars will offset that.

  6. Phil Way

    At 28000 Sq ft the Kowalski will amount to a convenience store. The bakery is going to generate unwanted semi truck traffic. The endangered gas station and car wash. Be careful of what you wish for in all three proposals. If the gas station disappears you will be forced to drive 3 to 4 miles further to a more congested area to get gas.

  7. Jack

    Are big box stores really going out with the growth of Hy-Vee stores coming in and Costco having an endless stream of traffic?

    Also, film and rental movies have changed due to technology but notice people still want to go the movie theatre and in fact if you have seen the number of old move theaters being renovated, the nostalgia of going to the movies is still there. Just like vinyl records have made a come back–so will other things. Read up on this and you’ll see the growth pattern.

    Electric cars are like the hybrids. Trendy for a while but now you see people that swore by them, switching back. Electric cars may sometime have a chance to staying around if they become safer to drive and/or be in an accident in. Right now, seeing the amount of actual car around them, they seem to be more of a “clown car” or “a moped with a little more metal around it or at their worse “a deathtrap” if you talk to the family members of those having had loved ones be in an accident in them. What’s worth more–a tank of gasoline or the life of your loved ones?

  8. Mavis Klemmensen

    Wonder why no one mentioned going north on Lexington to Lake Drive to the Festival in Circle Pines. I am very familiar with it as I lived 31 years before moving to Shoreview. Circle Pines also has the closest post office, Walgreens, McDonalds, Hardware Hank.

  9. Bart Berlin

    Great discussion. I enjoyed reading all the responses. Someone in the Tanglewood neighborhood has a Tesla. I’ve seen it several times. Once while waiting for the light on macadam and 96.
    Regarding electric cars: I’ve always wondered what the eco and monetary cost is of burning coal to power the electric or hybrid car. Does the savings in gas offset the consumption of coal?

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      From a consumer cost standpoint 250 miles of electricity (Tesla, Leaf, i3) is about $2 – $3 vs $30 – $60 for gasoline (at current $1.62 / gal).

      Obviously the gasoline cost fluctuates much more then electricity. The future is anyone’s guess. Electric cars, in theory anyway, will also require much less maintenance. There were some issues with early Model S high-performance motors but these seem to have been resolved.

      From a pollution standpoint it depends on where your electricity comes from. If it comes from dirty coal then an EV might be about the same as an ICE (internal combustion engine) overall though the pollution from EV’s is generally away from populated areas vs tailpipe emissions from ICE’s. With clean coal, natural gas, solar, etc an EV is much cleaner.


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