With Cub, Target, two Aldi stores and many small markets damaged by rioting over the past week, Longfellow and about eight other neighborhoods have nearly become a food desert.
“I consider the loss of these businesses devastating,” said Melanie Majors, executive director of the Longfellow Community Council. “Besides just the food, there’s a lack of retail for diapers, formula, household goods, even clothing.”
Many residents of the area shop lower-priced stores such as Aldi or dollar stores. Two of those dollar stores — including Family Dollar on Lake Street — were destroyed in last week’s looting and violence that arose after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody.
One Aldi store on E. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis reopened Monday after power was restored to it. The frozen foods section had been cleared out due to the outage that started late last week, but shelves were being restocked Monday.
Shashana Craft of Maple Grove purchased groceries there Monday for Headway Emotional Health Services, where she works with Indigenous families.
“I’ve never seen the shelves this empty,” she said. “If people can’t get to their grocery store, they should check with churches or support groups offering free food and groceries.”
Majors said a few places were offering free food and supplies: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church near 31st Street and Minnehaha Avenue; Heart of the Beast Theatre at S. 15th Avenue and E. Lake; and Sanford Middle School at E. 35th Street and S. 42nd Avenue.
Amplifying the problem over the weekend and again on Monday was the fact that Metro Transit was not operating buses or trains. Public transportation will again be shut down on Tuesday.
Sylvester Hudson walked about 40 minutes from Fort Snelling Apartments to the Cub Foods at E. 46th Street and Hiawatha Avenue.
It is the only supermarket left in the Longfellow neighborhood along the light-rail line after four other supermarkets closed because of destruction during the protests.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to catch a cab, so I’ll probably have to walk,” said Hudson, 70, who brought a two-wheeled cart for grocery transport, as he finished shopping at Cub Foods. “This is the only store left open in the neighborhood that I can walk to.”
Area residents with a vehicle could find open supermarkets nearby at Longfellow Market, S. 38th Avenue and E. Lake, and Lunds & Byerlys in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.
Although shorter on Monday, there were lines out the door at several of the city markets on Sunday, similar to when Gov. Tim Walz first issued the stay-at-home order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Business has been up more than 60% at Longfellow Market since the other stores were forced to close, according to manager Terry Mahowald.
“We never planned to be this busy,” he said. “Everyone’s stressed. This is certainly not the way we wanted to increase traffic.”
He plans to add more lower-priced, generic items to help keep prices reasonable for shoppers at the natural and organic grocery.
Home delivery through Shipt or Instacart isn’t an option for the neighborhoods, either.
Delivery services usually pick from stores nearby. With four of them closed, other arrangements are being made.
Target owns Shipt and is working on arrangements to fill delivery orders through other Targets, a spokeswoman said. The Minneapolis-based retailer also has pledged to rebuild the Lake Street store, hopefully by the end of the year.
Mahowald thanked neighborhood volunteers for saving the Longfellow Market.
“We’ve had nearly 25 people from the neighborhood guarding it every night since Tuesday,” he said.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633