Gold at the end of the Rainbow: Shoreview’s new Kowalski’s aims to deliver


The new Kowalski’s Market in Shoreview will feature a wine shop, Cooks of Crocus Hill and Starbucks.

Shoreview’s new Kowalski’s will open at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.

Last march the building was vacant.

Come Nov. 10, it will be ready for business. “We’ll have everything that our typical Kowalski’s stores have — all that fresh produce, meat and seafood, and a great deli and bakery,” Kowalski Christiansen said. “But we also added some new things.”

The path for Kowalski’s Market to settle into Shoreview was paved in early 2016 and, just as the winter holiday season approaches, so does the grocery store’s grand opening.

Last March, the Shoreview City Council finalized plans for the Woodbury-based grocery chain to move into the former Rainbow Foods location at Highway 96 and Hodgson Road. 

Kowalski’s new location had been 1990s-era, 68,000-square-foot building that was left empty when Rainbow’s parent company, Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc., pulled out of the Twin Cities in July 2014. 

The building has been unused since then, but according to Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin, city officials and residents were anxious to find a new occupant. 

“The community really misses having a grocery store at that location,” Martin had said back in March. “From everything I’ve been hearing, there’s a lot of excitement about this, particularly about it being Kowalski’s.”

Now that wait is over. Kowalski’s is set to open at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.

 

A hearty welcome

Unanimously approved by the Shoreview Planning Commission and then the city council, Kowalski’s worked with city staff and developer Oppidan Investment Company to make a plan for the site, aiming for a pre-Thanksgiving completion.

Finishing right on time, residents will be able to see how that plan has been brought to light come Nov. 10. 

Most of the renovations included interior work on the building. 

According to Kowalski’s chief operating officer Kris Kowalski Christiansen, approximately 45,000-square-feet of the building is designated for traditional grocery merchandize. The remaining 43,000-square-feet is Kowalski’s new production facility, relocated from Mahtomedi, she said. That extra space, Kowalski Christiansen explained, will house the store’s deli kitchen, as well as the chain’s production bakery facility, catering facility and a small distribution center for various products including items under the Kowalski’s private label. 

“We fit a lot in there,” she said. “But it’s also a really big building. It’s been great and is serving a lot of purposes.”

 

What to expect 

The grocery store isn’t just a grocery store, Kowalski Christiansen said. “We’ll have everything that our typical Kowalski’s stores have — all that fresh produce, meat and seafood, and a great deli and bakery, but we also added some new things.”

For example, she said, the store will have a Starbucks coffee shop and a large wine shop that also carries craft beers and liquors. 

“And in our deli line-up, we’ll have a made-to-order hot pasta bar, where you can create what you want. It takes only about five minutes or so and you’ll have a nice hot meal.”

The hot food doesn’t end there. “We’ll also have a hot ‘carver station,’ as we call it,” she said. “Big crusty bread sandwiches with hot carver meats — pork, turkey and beef. That’s new for us.”

 

A place to gather 

Kowalski Christiansen said the aim with the new Shoreview location isn’t just to get people in and out. She said they created a seating area on the second floor where customers will be welcome to stay longer. 

“We made a nice big seating area so people can feel comfortable coming on over for lunch or dinner with the family,” she said.

The Shoreview store will also be the first Kowalski’s to implement a “corking station.” Kowalski Christiansen explained that customers will be able to buy a bottle of wine in the wine shop, take it to the deli, grab food and have the bottle opened to enjoy in-store over dinner. 

“We’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how it goes,” Kowalski Christiansen said.

 

A roadway re-do

One of the non-interior changes that Kowalski’s pushed for before moving in to the vacant Rainbow building was for the creation of a left-turn lane from the eastbound lane of Highway 96 into the store’s parking lot.

That change was supported by the Shoreview City Council, which agreed that the city would pay for it. Creating the turn lane meant opening up the median on Highway 96. 

Martin said the roadway tweak was something Kowalski’s executives felt they needed for the store to be successful.

According to the mayor, the city contributed about $1.4 million to the entire project of having Kowalski’s move into Shoreview. But, she added, it was funded through tax-increment financing, which she said means the “money will eventually go back to the taxpayers.”

 

Hanging on through hang-ups

Though the store is opening up on time to get customers their Thanksgiving turkeys, there were a few bumps in the road. 

“There were two or three theft incidents during the construction period,” Kowalski Christiansen said. 

On Sept. 7, someone entered the construction site and stole light fixtures and a several tools, according to a Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office police report. 

Later the same month, a 45-year-old man from Shoreview was arrested after he was caught burglarizing the building around midnight Sept. 25. The security alarm system, which was installed after the first incident, went off and squad cars responded immediately with a K9 unit and a group of sheriff’s deputies. 

After carefully checking the main floor, the responding deputies eventually found the man on the second floor, wrapped in plastic “to hide his smell from the dog,” according to the criminal complaint. 

The burglar also had a felony warrant out of Anoka County. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Kowalski Christiansen said of the burglaries. “But it didn’t slow us down.”

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.

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