As we round the corner into 2015, one of our beloved storefronts reaches a milestone: Minnetonka’s Lakewinds Food Co-op celebrates its 40th anniversary of bringing organic, local food to the lake area. Founded in 1975, the co-op has seen great success in Minnetonka and the surrounding area, undergoing several expansions and opening two new locations in the past decade. Among its reasons for lasting success? Building strong relationships with local farmers and food producers, says general manager Dale Woodbeck.
“The co-op has its roots in 1972,” Woodbeck explains, “when it was started as a buying club by three local women.” Humble beginnings, to be sure, for what is now one of the largest co-ops in the Midwest.
Edie Green, Edith Stodola and Helen Davis started the Minnetonka Buyer’s Club with a vision of bringing fresh, local produce and other food products to their community. The three set up shop on Green’s front porch, selling produce from their gardens, fresh eggs from Davis’ hens, bulk natural food items and even cheeses.
The buyer’s club went through several locations, including a stint in Davis’ basement in Glen Lake, before moving into a small building behind Minnetonka's St. Luke Presbyterian Church. Known as the “red shack,” this building saw the transformation of the buying club into the St. Luke’s Food Co-op in 1975.
In 1983, the co-op reformed as Lakewinds Food Co-op after expanding beyond the confines of the red shack on the St. Luke property into a slightly larger location at the corner of Minnetonka Boulevard and Groveland School Road. Since then, the store has occupied three different locations on that same corner, a testament to its continued capacity for growth and change.
“I remember trying to pick times during the week when I could go in and shop and not have bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Woodbeck says. “I used to say ‘It was so busy you had to go outside to change your mind.’ ”
In response to this rapid growth, the co-op decided to open an additional location and settled on a spot in Chanhassen.
In December 2005, Lakewinds opened its doors in Chanhassen. Shortly afterward, in January 2006, the Minnetonka store expanded once again into the space it occupies now, which was a SuperValu grocery store.
“We decided to take a chance and double down, as it were, and open these stores at virtually the same time,” Woodbeck says.
And it paid off: in June 2014, the co-op’s newest location opened in Richfield. A growing member base and increased demand for high-quality natural food throughout the metro helped ensure this third location could be successful.
Despite its prodigious growth and expansion into communities beyond the immediate Minnetonka area, Lakewinds has remained true to its original goals of providing local, high-quality, sustainably produced food to the people it serves.
“We take extreme care in building relationships with local farms and food producers,” Woodbeck says. “That local emphasis is really what helped make us successful back in the 1970s." Now, Lakewinds continues to work with new and emerging farmers to get their products on the market.
A long-time Lakewinds patron, Myra Wang, says it’s this focus on pure, local, high-quality food that has kept her coming to Lakewinds over the years.
“For the past five years, I’ve really focused on educating myself about the importance of local farmers and the health benefits of eating organically,” Wang, an Excelsior resident says. She thinks the presence of a natural and organic food source such as Lakewinds has been essential to eating healthfully.
“Lakewinds is a place I know I can completely trust.” she says.
17501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka