Good news: Downtown St. Paul finally has the full-service grocery store residents have been clamoring for. Even better news: It’s a union shop.
After years of planning and waiting, Lunds opened a 27,000-square-foot store on the ground floor of the Penfield Apartments at 10th and Robert streets May 15. The store’s 80 workers are members of Local 1189 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
At the store’s grand-opening celebration May 15, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman touted the grocer’s arrival as more evidence that St. Paul’s downtown area is thriving.
“To be a full community, you absolutely have to have a full-service grocery store,” Coleman said. “This is a gigantic leap forward for the City of St. Paul.”
St. Paul has added 1,100 new housing units downtown in the last year, Coleman noted. A new microbrewery, a new minor-league ballpark and, thanks to funding from the state bonding bill, a renovated Palace Theater soon will open just blocks away from Lunds.
Lund Food Holdings CEO Tres Lund acknowledged the “renewed vitality taking place downtown St. Paul” was a factor in the company’s decision to expand into the district.
“One thing the community has lacked, until now, is a full‐service grocery store,” Lund said. “Our store team of nearly 80 employees is eager to provide the community with this much‐needed amenity. Whether you live or work in and around the downtown area, we look forward to becoming your new neighbor.”
A ‘full-service’ grocer
Lunds and Bylerly’s, which Lund Food Holdings acquired in 1997, have 25 retail locations across the Twin Cities area. The chain, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, has established a reputation for upscale, full-service operations.
The downtown St. Paul Lunds figures to become a popular lunch destination among people working in the area, and the store has a café seating area to accommodate the lunch rush.
The store’s deli features a salad bar, sandwiches, soups and other hot foods. There’s also sushi, prepared in the store daily, and a Big Bowl Chinese Express counter.
Other services and offerings include cake decorating at Lunds’ bakery, hundreds of specialty cheeses from around the world, the largest olive and antipasti bar in any Lunds or Byerly’s, and free knife sharpening from the store’s meat department.
Bachman’s Floral, Caribou Coffee and St. Croix Cleaners dry cleaning operate counters inside Lunds, providing additional convenience for shoppers.
Access to the store is equally convenient, with 95 stalls in an attached parking ramp and, beginning June 14, a Green Line light-rail stop just one block away.
Penfield pays off
The Penfield, which houses Lunds, is built on the former site of the St. Paul Public Safety Building, the façade of which has been absorbed into the new structure.
The 80 or so members of UFCW Local 1189 who staff Lunds are the latest in a string of union members who have found employment as a result of The Penfield development. But there was a time when many wondered if The Penfield would get off the ground at all.
After the housing market collapsed with the Great Recession, the development stalled, as did Lunds’ plans to open in the downtown market. Financing from the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, which invests union pension capital into union-built construction projects, helped revive the project.
“When I took office in 2006, the Penfield project was one of our No. 1 priorities. We knew it would help the rest of the city develop,” Coleman said. “The challenge was, as the economy collapsed, the resources that we needed [for] the project were scarcer and scarcer. It was the Housing Investment Trust that allowed us the resources we needed to get this project in the ground and get people to work building it.”
Now that investment is putting union members to work inside The Penfield as well.