Kum & Go to Open Urban Des Moines Store

Located where civil rights history was made, the new concept store will focus on sustainability.

October 24, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa—Kum & Go, the family owned chain with more than 400 locations in 11 states, will open an urban convenience store in downtown Des Moines in the spring of 2020, reports the Des Moines Register.

A new concept for Kum & Go, the 3,000-square-foot, walk-up store will focus on "healthy and better-for-you products," as well as traditional c-store items, said Tanner Krause, president of Kum & Go. It also will serve as a test store for the chain's new items. "Kum & Go is trying to take a lead on healthy items in a convenience setting, and we think this concept and this audience will be a great testing ground for that change," he said.

The downtown store will offer pizza, sandwiches and salads, plus a high-end selection of wine and liquor. It will sell traditional convenience store snacks and household items, like medicine and toiletries, but it will not have roller-grill hot dogs, a nacho cheese bar or craft beer growlers, which are found in the Kum & Go Marketplace concept.  

The urban outlet will focus on sustainability by putting customers' purchases in reusable cloth bags—not plastic grocery bags. Shoppers will find compostable silverware and straws, recyclable cups and lids and post-consumer recycled food packaging in this and all Kum & Go locations. The change will reduce the amount of plastic used in the company's food operations by more than 90%, Krause said. 

Recently, several traditional retailers—both convenience and grocery—have opened urban retail locations and are focusing on healthier items, according to Ultra Creative Inc., a marketing firm. Examples are Whole Foods Market, which opened its first smaller-format store in New York City this year, and 7-Eleven, which has a new concept store in Dallas offering specialty food and beverages and fast-casual Mexican food.

Kum & Go's new concept came from a seven-person employee team that was tasked with finding new and innovative ways to grow the company, Krause said. The company has had stores without gas pumps, but the downtown store will be the first in an urban setting without a dedicated parking lot. It also will be the first not built on the company's standard lot, which averages 1.5 acres. 

Currently under construction, the new store is part of a $12.4 million historic rehabilitation of one of the city's most prominent buildings. Kum & Go estimates that there are 10,000 people living and working within a 2 ½-minute walk of the new outlet in the Edna M. Griffin Building, a 134-year-old, historic structure that was the scene of a major event in the city's civil rights history. When renovation is complete, the building will combine 35 apartments with retail space.

"The story of Edna Griffin is one that I hope more central Iowans know and can learn from. And it ties into the type of company we're trying to develop or become from a diversity and inclusion perspective," Krause said. "I think Edna Griffin’s story is inspiring and courageous."

Called the Rosa Parks of Iowa, Edna Mae Griffin was a civil rights pioneer who organized sit-ins and protests of Katz Drug Store after being refused service there on July 9, 1948, because she was African American. Griffin later sued owner Maurice Katz, and the Iowa Supreme Court backed her claim, which led to a ruling making it illegal for businesses in Iowa to deny service based on race. Katz Drug Store was in the Flynn Building at the corner of Locust and Seventh streets in downtown Des Moines. Fifty years after Griffin organized the first sit-in, the building was renamed in her honor. Griffin died in 2000 at age 91.

Both Des Moines Griffin Building LLC and Kum & Go will pay homage to the building's namesake, by having a local artist paint a mural honoring Edna Griffin’s legacy.