A partnership to open a grocery store that serves more than just food
Imagine a place that not only provides affordable food, it also serves as a safe space for the community to gather, receive wellness services and obtain health care assistance.
No need to imagine: That place is Minneapolis-based North Market, a social enterprise born out of a partnership between Pillsbury United Communities and Anchor Bank (now known as Old National Bank), as well as a number of other local businesses. Prior to the creation of North Market, the United States Department of Agriculture had categorized that particular location in Minneapolis as a food desert — an area where purchasing affordable, fresh food (let alone any food) is nearly impossible.
Today, the business employs 37 individuals, 29 of whom live in the area, and sees nearly 400 customers a day. “We really see it as an economic catalyst for the North Minneapolis community,” says Adair Mosley, president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “It promotes social cohesion and connectedness and spurs growth in our community.” Pillsbury United Communities’ mission is to create self-sufficiency in underestimated communities around Minneapolis. Among its other projects are a community-based newspaper that introduces students, particularly students of color, to journalism; a theater in South Minneapolis that focuses on socialjustice conversations; and a bike shop that provides youth experiencing homelessness an opportunity to gain job skills.
“We are fearless and passionate about changing conditions of the communities we serve,” says Mosley. “We do that through humility and recognizing that communities own the solution. We’re merely a platform for them to be able to emerge.” The bank’s nonprofit banking team served as the financial partner for the North Market project, but the relationship between the two organizations was so much more than that of a lender-lendee. The bank and Pillsbury United were both passionate about North Market’s mission and worked tirelessly to create a place for an underserved community to thrive. “Our partnership went beyond simply them providing financing,” says Mosley.
“It was a relationship of champions that wanted to see this project succeed and used intellectual capital and social capital to be able to bring that to fruition.” Along with the bank, Pillsbury United partnered with a number of other organizations and enjoyed bipartisan local and state government support. This support made the bank’s decision an easy one. They knew that the team would be one of listening and collaboration filled with patience and determination. The nonprofit banking team worked side by side with Mosley and the leadership at Pillsbury United, homing in on the needs of, and economic development opportunities in, the community.
The collaboration also included supportive businesses, foundations and government that provided levels of financial resources and skilled people to assist in creating and approving bank-qualified, tax-exempt financing, construction and operations. “As the lender, we were comfortable with all of the stakeholders and relationships Pillsbury United’s board assembled,” says Kelly Elkin, senior vice president of nonprofit banking for Old National Bank, “They worked day and night to get this project over the finish line.” Other community-focused project types that the bank has worked on include economic and workforce development, human services, education, affordable housing, health care and places of worship.
Mosley says that Old National Bank is an institution they would want to connect with in the future. “[They] remain the exemplary financing partner,” he says. “I definitely see new projects and opportunities. They continue to be a trusted partner that we’ll lean on.” In such a short span of time, that partnership has paid off, and North Market has been incredibly successful.
“I’m so impressed with the impact we’ve seen already,” says Elkin. “North Market is a grocery store by the community, for the community. We’re very proud to have been a part of this project.”