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Amazing Grains asks for public input

The grocery store owned by the Amazing Grains Co-op closed in May, but members are looking into the possibility of other commercial ventures. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

The Amazing Grains Co-op is inviting the public to take a survey that will help it decide whether to pursue a new venture after its grocery store closed earlier this year.

The co-op wants to gather input through the survey, found at tinyurl.com/AG-Members, after the initial results showed a "legitimate movement within the membership to pursue a future commercial venture," Board Co-chair Nick Hagen told the Herald this week. The group previously only collected input from members.

"We learned enough from the preliminary results from the member-only survey to understand what the membership wanted," Hagen said. "At least half of our customers at the grocery store were nonmembers, so we would understand that if anything did get off the ground with us moving forward, it would rely very heavily on nonmembers that still found eating natural, local and organic foods to be an important part of their lives."

Amazing Grains closed at 214 DeMers Ave. in May after seeing three years of declined sales. The largest sales hit, a 30 percent drop, came last year after Natural Grocers opened in south Grand Forks.

Though the store took several cost-saving steps, the membership decided to close the business after 45 years of operation, 20 of which were at the downtown location. The co-op liquidated its assets, sold most of its equipment and vacated.

Since the closure, the co-op has been researching how it can continue its mission of providing natural, healthy food choices for customers, including opening a deli or another grocery store in a different location.

It's unclear what form any commercial venture would take, and there is no timeline to make decisions, Hagen said. The survey, however, asks participants a variety of questions, including whether to open a new business, what type of business shoppers would want and whether the co-op should be dissolved.

Hagen said about a third of the co-op's 1,800 members took the survey, with the majority of them saying they are interested in pursuing a commercial venture. Members still can take the survey until it closes completely at midnight Sunday. The results will be discussed during the co-op's monthly potluck at 6:30 p.m. July 27 at The 701 coworking space at 33 S. 3rd St. in Grand Forks.

"It's really encouraging to hear the level of interest from the community as to what the next steps for Amazing Grains will be," he said. "Hopefully, this will lead to some positive things."

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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