New Pioneer Co-Op coming to Cedar Rapids


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Following a more than 20-year gap, a local natural and organic food store has announced its intention to return to Iowa’s second-largest city.

Plans for the expansion of Iowa City’s New Pioneer Co-op into Cedar Rapids were described during a Tuesday morning press conference at the Cedar Rapids Area Metro Economic Alliance, 501 First St. S.E.

The initial plans for a third Co-Op location began in May.

The store began in Iowa City in 1971 with its first location at 518 Bowery St.

General manager Matt Hartz said while the Co-op is committed to the Iowa City market, store officials excited about expanding to the nearby city.

“We’re not trying to go large,” Hartz said. “What we want to do is try to be able to serve the largest number of potential members in the area.”

Currently, the new location is in the planning stages. Renovations are set to begin in the first part of next year.

The new store will take over the former Fin and Feather store at 3338 Center Point Road N.E. Jennifer Angerer, the Co-op marketing manager, said the building has been vacant for five years.

According to Tuesday news release, the coming weeks will see existing building and parking lot construction. The new store is expected to open in late 2014 or early 2015.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said the store will benefit the city in many ways, including creating more than 50 jobs and expanded consumer options.

“New Pioneer has a great reputation in Coralville and Iowa City,” Corbett said. “We’re just thrilled that it’s willing to look at the Cedar Rapids market.”

Furthermore, he said, the Co-Op would be beneficial to the city’s private sector.

“We’ve seen incredible investment in the private sector since the 2008 flood,” Corbett said. “This is a reconfirmation about the private sector.”

Both Hartz and Angerer said they are confident about the future of their new location. Various market studies on the New Pioneer customers have shown that the new area will be receptive to the niche market that the Co-op serves, they said.

“We have a very large member base in Cedar Rapids, around 5,000 to 6,000 people,” she said.

“That building is kind of located in ground zero of where our current members are.”

Calls made to New Pioneer Board President Sarah Walz had not been returned as of Tuesday afternoon.

New Pioneer also would like relocate its Iowa City store to a better location. In January, the store pushed for relocation to city-owned land at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets that would have been a part of the Chauncey Gardens high-rise.

The Iowa City City Council chose a 20-story project led by developer Marc Moen, dubbed the Chauncey, for the land on Jan. 8.

While unsuccessful in that effort, Angerer said, Co-op officials are still searching for another location.

“We’re in a good position financially to focus on multiple projects,” she said. “Our membership [in Iowa City] continues to grow — there certainly is a demand. It is just an exciting opportunity that we will continue to try to find a more appropriate place for our downtown site.”

In fiscal 2013, the Iowa City and Coralville locations took in $11 million and $15 million, respectively, the DI has previously reported.

The natural and organic food grocery opened a Cedar Rapids store in 1988, then closed it in 1991 because of poor sales.

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