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Minneapolis Grocery Biz Heats Up

MINNEAPOLIS -- Food retailing competition in downtown Minneapolis is on the verge of intensifying, with Whole Foods scouting for a site and online retailer SimonDelivers, Inc. stepping up its activity.

Whole Foods is reportedly under contract to purchase a 2.4-acre site in downtown Minneapolis where a car dealership has operated since 1964, according to local press reports. The organic retailer follows Edina, Minn.-based Lund Food Holdings, Inc. downtown; Lund said last fall it plans to open two supermarkets on either side of the Mississippi River in 2006, one near Loring Park, the other by Riverplace.

Online grocer SimonDelivers, which currently distributes groceries direct in a 300-mile diameter throughout Minnesota, began seriously targeting downtown Minneapolis residents and businesses last September, after realizing the area's potential, said marketing director David Gandrud in an interview with Progressive Grocer. In the first four months following its marketing campaign, 420 additional buildings (including both residential and business locations) signed on for delivery service, he said.

SimonDelivers is currently adding new items to its popular Simon's Diner ready-to-bake line, which features a variety of fish, meat, seafood, and vegetarian entrees, Gandrud said. "These are being well received by our customers, and will continue to be a strong focal point going forward," he noted.

The e-tailer is also considering adding a Saturday delivery option, which could begin as early as May or June, according to Gandrud; it currently delivers groceries from Monday through Friday. Additionally, the company is exploring the feasibility of offering several drive-up locations in downtown Minneapolis, where downtown workers could pick up their groceries on their way home.

Downtown Minneapolis's residential population now nears 30,000, according to estimates from the Minneapolis Downtown Council. About 6,000 new housing units were either completed, under construction, or announced in 2004.
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