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Amazing Grains focuses on natural foods

Ashley Decker is the general manager of Amazing Grains in downtown Grand Forks. Photo by John Hageman

Q. How did Amazing Grains get its start?

A. Amazing Grains started in 1968 as a buying group of local families, friends and neighbors who couldn’t find items they were looking for easily available in Grand Forks.  They took turns making trips to Minneapolis, buying in bulk and dividing up the products within the group. In 1972, the group had grown large enough and they decided to found a food cooperative for the community.

Q. How does the co-op model work?

A. A cooperative is a business that is voluntarily-owned and democratically-controlled by the people who use it. Amazing Grains is specifically a food cooperative and follow cooperative principles based on self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity. We have just under 1,600 owners and anyone can become a owner by investing $100 into the co-operative. Owners receive economic benefit via monthly discounts in the store on select items as well as a patronage rebate in profitable years. Although we follow the co-op business model, Amazing Grains is not exclusive to its owners, everyone is welcome to shop!

Q. Your product line is a bit different than what you would find in a larger grocery store. What principles or criteria do you use before deciding what items to sell?

A. We are driven by a passion for good, high-quality food and consumer demand. Our product selection is guided by a desire to carry local, natural and organic foods. To us, this means product free of artificial ingredients, colors and additives as well as products that are less removed from traditional production processes.

We are concerned with carrying products that have transparency of their ingredients on the label and chose reduced or environmentally-friendly packaging where we can.

Often times, there is a misconception that we are completely gluten-free, GMO-free or completely organic but we aren’t any one of those things exclusively. However, they are important to us because they are important to our customers.

Most importantly, we want to work with passionate vendors, producers and farmers with strong personal integrity and care for their livestock, produce and products.  We want to support the folks who love food as much as we do.

Q. How has the downtown location worked for you?

A. It’s worked quite well for us. When we moved downtown in 2000, our annual sales were just under $400,000 and are now over four times that in annual sales. This is in part to the increased visibility but also in part to the residents that live and work downtown and in the adjacent neighborhoods. By filling the role of a downtown grocery, we keep the downtown walkable. Residents can walk down the block and pick up what they need instead of jumping in their car. It’s a great convenience.

 

Name: Ashley Decker

Title and business: general manager, Amazing Grains

Year opened: 1972

Number of employees: 20-plus

Address: 214 DeMers Ave., Grand Forks

Phone(701) 775-4542

 

John Hageman

John Hageman covers local business and North Dakota politics. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Bemidji Pioneer.  

(701) 780-1244
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