The Bisman Community Food Co-op has found a location for its grocery store.
The co-op will take over the Snooper's Tons of Fun building on Sweet Avenue at the end of July.
"We've been looking forward to this for 18 months," said outreach coordinator Heidi Demars.
The idea for a member-owned co-op specializing in organic and locally sourced food started about three years ago. The co-op needs $2.5 million and 1,200 members to open. It currently has 750 members. With membership fees and $270,000 of a $900,000 funding campaign raised, the group has about $1.44 million in start-up costs left to raise.
The remainder will come from increased number of membership fees, member loans and a commercial loan. The commercial financing will be in place by July 31.
"If the funds are not raised the project does not move forward and the member loans and preferred equity goes back to the lenders and investors," Demars said.
Of the start-up costs, $1.5 million will go to store renovations, equipment, and fixtures. Other costs include working capital, inventory, and pre-opening salaries and wages.
Paul Breiner, with Matrix Design in Mandan, and Minneapolis-based Gorski and Associates are developing the building design and layout.
Breiner said design will take eight to 10 weeks, with renovations beginning late summer. Hiring of staff will happen late this year and the co-op hopes to be open in early 2016.
Breiner said, like the co-op's produce, the building materials will be locally sourced. The 8,000-square-foot building will be converted into 6,000 square feet of retail space. The remaining 2,000 square feet will be used for storage and the 2,200-square-foot mezzanine will be made into a community room for co-op led classes.
The store will not only sell local produce and meat. There will be a deli and juice bar with seating, frozen foods, sections for those with special dietary needs. Those things that can't be locally sourced will come from United Natural Foods Inc., which serves other regional food co-ops, including Amazing Grains in Grand Forks, Demars said.
"It is the real deal," Breiner said.
Renae Doan, owner of Snoopers, said closing the business will be bittersweet. The Doans started the business in 1990, moving to its current location in 1994.
"It wasn't an easy decision," said Doan, adding that she is happy the co-op will be located in her building.
"The food co-op is going to be really good for the Bismarck-Mandan area," Doan said.
In addition to finding a location, the co-op has hired a general manager.
Mandan native Randy Joersz is moving back to his hometown to be closer to family and will serve as general manager.
Joersz is a third-generation grocer, starting as a bagger in his father's store when he was a teenager. In 1981, he opened a store of his own, Randy’s Super Valu, in New Salem. He also ran a five-store grocery operation in Iowa until selling it last year.
Joersz said his daughter kept telling him about the co-op. After reading the group's mission statement, he said he liked the idea of locally sourced, healthy food. He had been preaching "you are what you eat" to his customers for years.
"I look forward to working with local producers to offer a wide variety of natural, organic and locally grown products for our community," said Joersz, who will begin meeting with local producers this summer to prepare for next growing season.
In addition to locally-sourced food, Joersz said he would like to see a second co-op location in Mandan or another area if the Bismarck location is successful.
For more information go online to www.bismanfoodcoop.com.