Monday, July 20, 2009

While "Uncle Lennie" Grabs The Headlines, Northside Food Co-op Work Being Quietly Done Behind The Scenes...

Photo By John Hoff

Lennie Chism, the new owner of the vacant and boarded "Uncle Bill's" store, a human hot-air balloon of Big Ideas who is (apparently) hoping lack of a viable business plan won't keep him from riding the organic food trend to some kind of big, fat public subsidy has (incredibly) actually helped to kick off an interesting public discourse about co-ops and organic food in North Minneapolis...

Michelle Lewis, who is active on the WHO listserv, recently circulated some information about an effort to start a Wirth Community Co-op.

Hi, Guys,

I just wanted to remind folks about the ongoing community work that is already being done to start a Food Co-op in the neighborhood at the corner of Penn and Glenwood, which (unlike Sheridan and Plymouth) is an appropriate (commercial) location for such an enterprise.

I believe that the information provided below provides some indication of the serious level of commitment and long-term planning necessary for such a project to be successful, and also to remind people that we do have in the vicinity a great project to get involved with.

As someone who doesn't drive, and would love to be able to shop at a co-op near my home and support a Northside entity (rather than having to take the bus down to Seward Co-op every weekend), I am extremely excited about this Harrison community project, which I know will be dependent on a Willard-Homewood membership base in order to be successful.


The Wirth Community Co-op

The mission of the Wirth Community Co-op is to help build community and provide diverse, healthy food choices that reflect the needs of our immediate and surrounding neighborhoods.

An exploring committee of folks from Harrison and the surrounding neighborhoods of Bryn Mawr and Willard-Hay have been meeting in efforts to start a Food Co-op in the neighborhood. On Tuesday, April 22nd, (Earth Day) they decided on the Mission and Name of the cooperative as shown above. They will continue to meet, work in their committees, conduct a feasibility study, set up a table at events and generally do outreach whenever possible to the community. New folks with interest and energy to get this project up and running are always WELCOME!

They plan to meet on the 4th Tuesday of every monthduring this start-up phase
of the cooperative.

The exploratory committee is currently looking at various sites that might be possible for a store along Glenwood Avenue. They are very interested in the site at Penn and Glenwood but at this time are leaving open other options that may be available along Glenwood Avenue.


JOIN a Committee. You are welcome to help!

Steering Committee

This committee is made up of four people who meet between the regular monthly meetings and plan the agenda and any other activities that may be taking place during this exploratory time.Food Connections This Committee is looking at the option for getting as much local, and organic foods as possible at the store and in to the neighborhood. They will also be searching for outlets that serve the different foods needed by several minority and ethnic groups which live in the neighborhood.

Even before there is a building they are talking about a mini-Farmer's Market, CSAs (Community supported agriculture drop off points), connecting to the Youth project in JD
River Gardens at Wirth Park and more.


This committee will find a facilitator and services that can help conduct a Feasibility Study that will look at the potential future, demographics and other attributes needed to make this co-op successful.


This committee is doing the research and investigation for setting up a cooperative. A cooperative does have basic laws and incorporation methods in the state of Minnesota.

Outreach & Diversity

This committee is actively working to generate interest and bring in new people who will eceome members of the cooperative when that structure is set up.


For years Harrison residents have randomly talked about wanting a food co-op in the neighborhood. In late 2007 after the demolition of the abandoned gas station at the corner of Penn and Glenwood new developer, Jennifer Day, talked with Angela Dawson of the Northside Food Project about the possibility of a Food Co-op being in her new building at the Harrison Commons.

Angela Dawson contacted HNA staff person, Annie Young. They decided to hold an exploratory meeting and set up a date, put up posters, sent out notices, put notices in both the Harrison View and the Bryn Mawr Bugle neighborhood newspapers. The first meeting was held on February 12th at the HNA offices.

Over 20 people showed up for that meeting and started discussions. They set the date of the 4th Tuesday of every month as their regular meetings.

In March they setup Working Committees as listed above and folks signed up to serve on committees.

Financial Support

Details will be available soon so you can learn how to financially help get the Co-op started.

Co-op Principles

The Wirth Community Co-op plans to be part of the much larger International cooperative movement. It plans to seek resource assistance and join the Food Co-op Network here in the Twin Cities area and work with a supporting organization - Food Co-op 500.

The Cooperative principles are:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights - one member, one vote.
3. Members' Economic Participation

Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. A cooperative business returns margins to their patrons. Any margins (or profits) are credited to each member's capital credit account. Each member's share of the capital credits for the year depends on the amount each individual paid into the cooperative during that year and on the total margins of the cooperative for the year. Capital credits are retained for a number of years and the money is used as operating capital.

Retaining capital credits reduces borrowing needs. Capital credits are paid to all people who were
members in a certain year. Each year members receive a notice showing the amount of capital credits that have been credited to their account for the past year.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

5. Education, Training, and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.

7. Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work to improve the quality of life in the areas they serve.


Anonymous said...

Another pipe dream for the corner of penn and glenwood. That spot requires tremendous cleanup from the old gas station - toxic waste zone. Michelle is completely un-educated in the land development process.

Johnny Northside said...

So you're saying this proposal is a pipe dream and the other one is a pipe dream, too?

Anonymous said...

If think funding was a problem with Lennie Chism, the cost of a gas station site detox. We have those over North now with no development dollars for cleanup. Johnny you looking for the "Great White Plan". Keep searching.

Anonymous said...

What's this? A long, substantive post?

Come on, John! JNS readers have come to expect a blog that just bashes people and puts them down!

Where is the mindless criticism that obviously comes at the behest of the city's political machine?

Dottie Titus said...

I hope they can pull it together. Getting Bryn Mawr involved may be one way to do that. There was talk, and a committee, and people who wanted to get it done back in 2003/2004. JACC played a key role then. We talked about The Big Stop as a possible location. But the idea kind of lost its "oomph".

Then the McKinley neighborhood took it up, with an eye to putting in where Jerry's Flower Shop was. I think that effort died, too.

Perhaps NOMI is just too diverse for this kind of idea to work? Kowalsky's failed because there weren't enough people interested in an up-scale grocery store. Then we got Cub. And then we got Aldi's. If you walk into Aldi's, you will find that the first aisle from the door to the back wall is filled almost entirely with snack foods. The one in Brooklyn Center is the same. Unfortunately, those with lower incomes tend to eat more unhealthy foods (that's been proven with studies--not a stereotype on my part). It would be great to get a store where people would really buy healthy food, but can we support one financially?

Cub is struggling, mostly due to the high losses from shoplifting (more than $500 per day). I don't know how Aldi's is doing.

Now, if they really wanted to create a destination place in NOMI, someone would put a Trader Joe's on West Broadway at Penn Ave. That's on two major bus lines and at a future express bus stop. People love Trader Joe's, and I'll bet that people taking the bus to their suburban homes would stop and shop if they had the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

hi--i'd like to clarify that i was just passing along information from the harrison neighborhood association website, i can't take credit for any of the information in the post.

i think the relevant point here is that the committe is considering a variety of sites, among which the glenwood/penn site is one that is being strongly considered. this committee is working in the appropriate way, by gathering community input in order to identify the needs of the project, and using this information to identify possible sites that would be appropriate.


Anonymous said...

Jackie Cherryhomes + Harrison = Development deal with McCoemic and Barron. She's the one who sold out Heritage Park when she was the City Council President...Watch.

Why don't you go after her JNS?

Anonymous said...

The point is the Uncle Bill's site is a terrible place for an organic grocery store - I think Lenny should consider partnering with those in Harrison on his idea and perhaps all parties can learn from each other. The organic grocery store should be located in a commercial node, like Penn and Glenwood, thus capitalizing on its proximity to Bryn Mawr where there is more disposable income. Like the way Mississippi market is perched between a transitional neighborhood and an established upper-middle class community on a commercial node. There is EPA superfund money available to do a clean-up of the LUSTs (leaking underground storage tanks) at the former gas station - it will take a skilled developer with a solid business plan to pull it together, but if this dynamic group of people can do it - Penn and Glenwood really would be the best spot.

Anonymous said...


Nice post, except Bryn Mawr is not going to line up to support a co-op on Glenwood when they have Bryn Mawr already on their mind.

I also like the idea of a Trader Joe's, except on Lowry, IF the discussed light rail does indeed run down Lowry. Otherwise Broadway/Penn at the old Bean Scene. Shoplifting and safety will have to be addressed PERIOD, no matter who, what and where prospective businesses open. That should be a priority discussion for the WBC and any Neighborhood Assn in conjunction with the Police Dept and possible security companies. No more talk, action only.

Now, about your blog: When I think of Jordan Livability, I think of a Good Housekeeping 'welcome to the neighborhood', 'here's how to maximize your experience' vibe. Instead, it is littered with anti-Jerry, anti-old majority JACC garbage. Plus, you do not accept or publish comments that disagree with your opinions. What's up with that? if you're going to politicize your neighborhood blog, why not have inclusive feedback?

MikeT said...

What is the position of the exiled W.H.O. Economic Development Committee on Lennie's plan? It seems they are probably in a position to weigh in on this with some degree of authority.

JNS Reader said...

Doesn't publish comments that disagree with his opinions? Try this: SCROLL UP.

Anonymous said...

I've watched the video of the infamous meeting where the "plan for Uncle Bill's" was presented.

I found the comments coming from both sides (proponents and opponents) to be very telling of the polarity that continues to exist between these two primary factions.

While I believe that we all as individuals, have a social responsibility to lend a helping hand, or support those that are less fortunate than ourselves (proponents of the "plan"). I also believe that everyone has a basic right to live in a safe, clean environment (opponents of the plan).

In listening to the comments, it became very clear to me that the to factions are "stuck" on which should come first - a safe, clean environment in which to live and raise their families, or to lend a helping hand and work towards true equality.

Why NOT first work towards adopting a set of livability standards for NOMI? Some of the proponents of the plan spoke very wise and true words - that many of the youth creating the most serious problems in NOMI are in desperate need of guidance, and something to which they can feel proud of and take an ownership stake in.

If you want to be critical of how things are currently, then you should also be willing to accept the responsibility for the critique you put-forth.

Don't like the way the police interact with the citizenry? That's great. But, you'd probably gain more credibitlity when you AT LEAST acknowledged when they did something that was beneficial to the community.

Don't like concerned residents expressing concern over Lennie's Plan? That's fine. But, maybe the way to go about it is to prompt Lennie to bring-forth solutions to the reasonable concerns that were voiced, instead of falling blindly in-line with your support of the "plan". It has many glaring defficiencies. That much can't be disputed.

Don't like all the "bashing" that occurs of individuals like Jerry Moore and Ben Myers. Great. But accept the fact they they did a HUGE disservice to Jordan AND NOMI in general. They both had their day in-court on the JACC issue and their claims and complaints were proven to be false. The problem wasn't the disgruntled residents, it WAS the leadership.

The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time....

Anonymous said...

The difference between the behavior of Jackie Cherryhomes and the supporters of Lennie's project is indeed instructive:

a) When Jackie was on the City Council, she listened to Bill Saningular's supporters and gave him a chance, taking a leap of faith and extending trust in his stated intention to try to turn around this corner (just as Lennie is now claiming he will do).

b) When Bill broke this trust, allowing Uncle Bill's to become the worst corner store ever to inhabit that location, allowing his tenant to actually sell crack from behind the counter (!), Jackie stepped up and admitted her mistake and has been working to correct it.

This is called having faith in people, and then being honorable when that faith is broken.


a) Lennie Chism circulated an e-mail claiming that we should never have closed down Uncle Bill's in the first place--that it was our DUTY to support the store's criminal activities.

b) Now Lennie wants to open a store which he says will be completely different, and unlike the past! But, Lennie, you were SUPPORTIVE of the way Uncle Bill's was, and never saw anything wrong with it before! During the long campaign to close down this menace, we never, ever saw your face or heard your voice. How, exactly are you now in a position not only to WANT to do things differently, but to expect everyone to trust that you have the will and the experience to do so--not to mention the ethics to not sell out to another convenience store when yet another one of your properties starts going into foreclosure and the bills are piling up?

This is called being disingenuous and opportunistic.

Anonymous said...

JNS Reader:

I'm talking about Dottie's Jordan Livability blog. I think that was somewhat clear in the post.

Anonymous @ 10:37am:

Ben and Jerry's 'day in court' did not result in anything resembling a ruling stating that they provided a 'HUGE disservice to Jordan AND NOMI in general'. So I don't think anyone has to 'accept' your point of view at all.

It seems to me that many JNS supporters continue to be the ones who are most quick to criticize, with facts and substance being only a sometimes thing to consider.

Johnny Northside said...

I don't know, it seems to me that bringing a case with no merit that ties up everybody's time and energy is (by its very nature, intrinsic to the act itself, if you will) a huge disservice to Jordan in particular, and NoMi in general.

The judge doesn't need to say those particular words because those words are very much between the lines.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:20 wrote:

"Ben and Jerry's 'day in court' did not result in anything resembling a ruling stating that they provided a 'HUGE disservice to Jordan AND NOMI in general'. So I don't think anyone has to 'accept' your point of view at all.

It seems to me that many JNS supporters continue to be the ones who are most quick to criticize, with facts and substance being only a sometimes thing to consider."

Oh please.... Stop now... You do realize how ridiculous you appear arguing that their little fiasco was anything BUT a HUGE disservice to JACC and NOMI?

Anonymous said...

anon 1:20 wrote:

"It seems to me that many JNS supporters continue to be the ones who are most quick to criticize, with facts and substance being only a sometimes thing to consider."

Special emphasis should be placed on "with facts and substance being only a sometimes thing to consider".

You did read the transcripts of the trial proceedings, yes? You might want to either rethink your definition of "facts and substance", or re-read the transcripts of the proceedings. I don't think the JNS bloggers that have been critical of Ben & Jerry (it does have a nice ring to it) are quilty of not considering facts in substance in their posts regarding the matter. Quite to the contrary, I believe it was the dynamic duo's inability to provide facts and substance and their belief that the "whole world was wrong and they were right", that caused the whole problem in the firstplace.

Go sell crazy some place else. JACC and NOMI both have had their fill of it already....

The Mortgage Geek said...

I am reminded of a Stephen Colbert line when he was arguing that his faux-conservative standpoint deserved more merit than whatever could be empirically proven:

"Reality has a well-documented liberal bias."

Even if the recent anonymous poster is right that JNS and his readers are among the first to complain or criticize, that doesn't necessarily mean we are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Mortgage Geek said:

"Even if the recent anonymous poster is right that JNS and his readers are among the first to complain or criticize, that doesn't necessarily mean we are wrong."

No, it merely means you complain and criticize more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ July 21, 2009 1:20 PM wrote:

"Ben and Jerry's 'day in court' did not result in anything resembling a ruling stating that they provided a 'HUGE disservice to Jordan AND NOMI in general'. So I don't think anyone has to 'accept' your point of view at all.

It seems to me that many JNS supporters continue to be the ones who are most quick to criticize, with facts and substance being only a sometimes thing to consider."

I love the fact that Ben & Jerry or Ben & Jerry fans read JNS. The language of the orders are not relevant. What is relevant is that you two lost -- big time!!! Love it. So, add to the free speech. Post comments anonymously and and enjoy. We all love NoMi: even the craZy ones that live here. They are entertaining (well, not as entertaining as Kristi McNeilly, "Esq." but hey, they hired her).

Anonymous said...

Considering Al Flowers show on MTN is a rudimentary form of an internet blog, I would argue that he does the same thing, with an even less positive focus than Johnny. Oh and Al DOES NOT let contrary veiwpoints on his show - like Johnny does with this blog.

Basically, Johnny is also "holding people accountable." So all you JNS haters take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror, because I am guessing most of you have made an appearance on Al's show - probably just to see what you look like on TV.

Anonymous said...

I'd like for someone to point-out ONE THING that JNS has said regarding Lennie and "the plan" that is either inaccurate, or untrue. Just one thing.

Lennie's "plan" has no substance at this point in-time. Lennie's asking for a neighborhood that has experienced nothing but grief and crimminal activity at that location and which worked very hard to get the convenience store at the location shut-down, to support him in his endeavor blindly. Without a shred of subtstantiated evidence to the contrary. There's nothing in writing for anyone from the neighborhood (from Lennie) to accurately access what it is exactly, they are being asked to support. I think this is an accurate assesment of the scenario.

Yet, this neighborhood is being asked to blindly and abrubtly change directions 180 degrees on this particular address, based upon Lennie's "dream". Which in reality is exactly what it is at this point in-time.

If I am wrong, feel free to correct me. But, don't just tell me I am wrong. Tell me WHY I am wrong.

dennis m plante

Anonymous said...

I know there is a lot going on behind the scenes with all of this, but all I know is I don't want our neighborhood to become the unsafe place it was when Uncle Bill's was open, why would this place open again, WHY?!?! When it was such a struggle to make it go away! I love the quiet, and the safety I feel at home, now, and I thank god for it along with my family, so thankful we don't deal with gunfire and crime anymore... in case you have forgotten here is an example...