Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota generously supports MinnPost’s Race & Health Equity coverage; learn why

Concerns rise as north Minneapolis loses key grocery, pharmacy stores

What was already a food desert, with four grocery stores for 70,000 people, has been exacerbated.

The north Minneapolis Aldi was uniquely accessible because of its location close to public transit.
The north Minneapolis Aldi was uniquely accessible because of its location close to public transit.
MinnPost photo by Harry Colbert, Jr.

The Aldi on Lowry and Penn avenues in north Minneapolis closed on Feb. 12, leaving the neighborhood with only one major and two independent grocery stores.

The remaining stores aren’t in locations as accessible as Aldi, which was right on the bus line. They are also not at the same price point, something the community will definitely notice.

What was already a food desert with four grocery stores for 70,000 people has now been exacerbated. Access to basic needs are now more pronounced with the Walgreens at West Broadway and North Lyndale avenues closing on Feb. 22.

The north Minneapolis Aldi was uniquely accessible because of its location close to public transit, said Eric Moran, an eight-year resident of the Northside and frequent shopper of that Aldi.

Article continues after advertisement

“The bus stop there on Penn and Lowry is always full of people that have just visited there, and it’s something that always like four or five people are getting on the bus with Aldi bags or other grocery bags in their hands,” he said. “Anybody that lived in that immediate vicinity now no longer has a grocery store in their neighborhood. It’s gonna be devastating to the people that don’t have transportation.”

The company cited “the inability to renovate the store to accommodate larger product range and current lease term expiring,” as a reason for the closure, an Aldi spokesperson wrote in an email to MinnPost.

Community upheaval 

Aldi tweeted just two days after announcing the Northside closure, writing, “If we were looking for new store locations, any suggestions on where we should go next?”

Minnesotans have taken to social media to advocate for Aldi to either not leave that location or open another location in that area. People online showed up for north Minneapolis, including Sen. Tina Smith who replied to the company and offered a suggestion.

“In some neighborhoods, this could just be a grocery store. But this is needed,” said Minneapolis Ward 4 Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw. “It’s just been devastating. It’s a huge loss.”

Many community members have reached out to her asking if the city could step in, which is not possible, she said. But based on conversations with the property owner, David Wellington, she thinks he wants another grocery store to come in its place.

Officials operating one remaining grocery store on the Northside is also upset about Aldi leaving. North Market, located in the Camden neighborhood, is operated by the non-profit, Pillsbury United Communities. The store was created after community conversations in 2014 that identified a lack of grocery stores in north Minneapolis.

“(North Market) exists because we wanted to increase access to fresh foods and healthy produce in north Minneapolis. So we are not happy that we have one less business that’s doing this because the community needs it,” said Vanan Murugesan, chief transformation officer with Pillsbury United Communities.

Article continues after advertisement

Because North Market is not a part of a chain and purchasing for a single store, many of its products are at a higher price point than Aldi’s or Cub, Murugesan said.

That can make the product less accessible to people, said Amy Koopman, a resident of north Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood.

“Even though it’s a really good model (North Market), it’s not meeting the needs of the community. If we had more of those, that would be fantastic,” Koopman said.

Koopman has lived half a mile from the former Aldi location for 12 and a half years. When she heard the news of its closing, she was outraged. She was one of the people who replied to the company’s tweet.

“Aldi has been our go-to grocer. We’ll make big trips to Hy-Vee or to Cub when we need to, but Aldi is the constant grocery to go pick up a load of groceries,” she said.

At one point, when her family’s household income was slashed in half, they could only shop at Aldi. She says the difference in their prices could change the lives of people living in poverty.

“The big impact is people having to choose between putting food on their table or paying rent or paying utilities. People having to work longer hours, having to work more jobs, third jobs, fourth jobs, sending their kids to work to cover that gap,” Koopman said. “For a lot of people who don’t and who have never lived in poverty, the difference between a $4 gallon of milk and a $7 gallon of milk is like ‘that’s expensive,’ but you still pay for it because you have the padding in your budget to do that. People here don’t, and so that $3 extra for milk is astronomical. And that $3 over the course of however long it takes to get another grocery store here adds up.”

Moran observed most people who shopped at the Aldi were people of color.

“When I do take the bus, most of the people that are stopping at that location and stopping at the Aldi are people of color,” Moran said. “It’s definitely going to be impacting them a lot more than any other group.”

Article continues after advertisement

Hearing about the Walgreens closure furthered his concerns for Northside residents.

“I’m fairly privileged in that I can go and take my car to go get medicine where I need to. But anybody that was reliant on having something in the neighborhood is going to be in rough shape, he said. “One pharmacy in all of north Minneapolis; it’s pretty ridiculous.”

Health implications

Aldi was an affordable option in the area for healthy foods, many community members expressed.

Minnesota ranks seventh worst in the nation with groceries close to residents’ homes, according to a 2019 Wilder Research report.

Access to basic needs are now more pronounced with the Walgreens at West Broadway and North Lyndale avenues closing on Feb. 22.
MinnPost photo by Harry Colbert, Jr.
Access to basic needs are now more pronounced with the Walgreens at West Broadway and North Lyndale avenues closing on Feb. 22.
Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank that partners with food shelves around the state, is already seeing the impacts of Aldi closing, according to Rachel Sosnowchik, the organization’s public affairs specialist.

“When it comes to health, we want people to be able to afford to buy healthy foods: the fruits, the veggies, the lean proteins and whole grains. Affordability is particularly important when it comes to ensuring folks have the ability to buy and eat healthy foods,” Sosnowchik said.

The store’s closure also puts a dent in the food rescue programs that Second Harvest Heartland helps with. Each week, the organization takes food from grocery stores, which is distributed to food shelves. Aldi contributed 800 pounds of food a month for the program, Sosnowchik said.

In an earlier version of this story we incorrectly referred to Sen. Tina Smith as state Sen. Tina Smith.