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Prairie Roots Food Co-op opens in Fargo with mix of natural, organic foods

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Fargo's new member-owned natural and organic foods store Prairie Roots Food Co-op opens Wednesday. Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 7
Wellness buyer Murphy Anderson stocks the shelves of her section Monday, July 3, 2017, at Fargo's new member-owned natural and organic foods store Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which opens Wednesday. Dave Wallis / The Forum3 / 7
Jamie Holding Eagle puts prices on shelves at Prairie Roots Food Co-op on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Holding Eagle said the store will give area residents more of a European-style experience, giving them the opportunity to shop daily for the freshest produce and other natural and organic foods. The store opens Wednesday, July 5. Helmut Schmidt/The Forum4 / 7
The Prairie Roots Food Co-op community room is covered with employee handbook manuals and other checklists as opening day approaches. The mural on the back wall was created by grocery manager Brett Lysne. Dave Wallis / The Forum5 / 7
Customers can grind their own almond butter and peanut butter at Fargo's new member-owned natural and organic foods store Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which is opening Wednesday. Dave Wallis / The Forum6 / 7
Prairie Roots Food Co-op general manager Kurt Kopperud stands by a mural in the community room-area of the store in downtown Fargo. Prairie Roots will open for the first time at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 5, 2017. Helmut Schmidt/The Forum7 / 7

FARGO—After years of planning, months of fit-up and weeks of stocking, Prairie Roots Food Cooperative opens its doors to the public at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 5.

General Manager Kurt Kopperud says the store at 1213 NP Ave. N. will be a big asset for the revitalized downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, with its mix of natural and organic foods, much of it locally produced.

"We're filling a need downtown," Kopperud said Sunday, July 2, as he and staff stocked and prepped the store.

The member-owned store is small by modern standards—about 5,600 square feet of retail space; 8,800 square feet overall—but it offers a full range of meat, produce, dairy and groceries. You can grind your own coffee and peanut butter, grab a seasonal sandwich or smoothie from the deli, or try the salad bar and food buffet. There's even kombucha on tap.

"It will have some unique options you don't have downtown," Kopperud said.

Local farmers and ranchers are glad to have another outlet to sell their products.

Noreen Thomas of Doubting Thomas Farms near Kragnes, Minn., said Monday that her family is supplying whole grain rolled oats, oat groats, flour, rye, buckwheat and mushrooms to Prairie Roots.

"We're pretty excited about it. It's going to be nice to have another home ... for our local products," Thomas said. "For us, it's returning back to a lot of the foods that are really nutritious. It's like your grandparents used to eat."

Nancy Winkler, who with her husband, Mark, run Nosy Josy Buffalo Ranch near Fosston, Minn., is another fan of the buy-local philosophy.

"Everything they're trying to do is a positive thing. Buying from local is really awesome," Winkler said.

Nosy Josy is offering buffalo steaks, brats and ground meat now, and will probably add roasts in the fall and winter, she said.

"Extremely healthy. Most of your nutritional charts will say it's healthier than grilled chicken," Winkler said.

Prairie Roots' normal hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, Kopperud said

Talks about creating a cooperative began in 2010.

The former Mathison's print shop building, where Prairie Roots is now, was purchased in 2015 by the Kilbourne Group. That same year, Prairie Roots announced it would move into the building.

The co-op rents the first floor and Kilbourne is expected to rent out the second and third floors, Kopperud said.

If Prairie Roots had opened when it was first envisioned, it would have been near the front of the pack in the natural food business.

Now there's plenty of competition: there's longtime downtown retailer Tochi Products, Natural Grocers on 45th Street and 13th Avenue South, and most conventional grocery stores have added natural food sections.

Kopperud is confident that location, product mix, and the cooperative model will ensure Prairie Roots will be competitive.

"We rely on members to sustain our business," Kopperud said. "There are not many places in town you can shop that you own."

Though anyone can shop at the store, the ownership stake lends people "a sense of pride. I think that's really cool," Kopperud said. There is a one-time fee of $300 for a household membership, but there are also smaller payment installment options. Members get some other benefits that nonmembers don't.

Jamie Holding Eagle, a Prairie Roots cashier and customer service representative, said the co-op will give people the opportunity to shop for fresh items daily, like many Europeans.

"I think that's so important, because you can buy more fresh food and eat healthier," she said. "We have the healthiest soil in the world, and this (store) kind of builds on it."

Kopperud said the store is adding more than 30 jobs to the area's economy.

"We have a really passionate and diverse staff," he said. "I'm excited to open it up and see the community interact with our staff and vice versa."

On the west end of the store, near the checkout registers, a community space is available for meetings and classes on cooking and local and organic eating.

On the east side of the building, an older, wooden structure is being renovated into a cidery and taproom, called "Wild Terra Cider and Brewing."

Kopperud said a grand opening for the store will be held a month or two from now, "once we get our legs under us."

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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