Most Twin Cities food co-op members associate the growth of co-ops with the period 1960–1975, when so many of our present co-ops began. A notable exception to the Sixties food co-ops was the Credjafawn Co-op Store, which briefly served the Rondo community in the years immediately following World War II. Its freestanding building at 678 Rondo Avenue lay only four blocks northwest of today’s Mississippi Market on Selby, at what was then the corner of Rondo and St. Alban, about half a block west of Dale.
The Credjafawn Co-op Store was a project of the Credjafawn Social Club (1928–1980), one of the Twin Cities’ earliest African-American social institutions. The Credjafawn was a community builder, sponsoring youth events, picnics, dances, concert recitals, and other events for the citizens of Rondo. During World War II, it organized its own credit union to lend money to members and bought war bonds to support the war effort. One of its immediate postwar projects was the Credjafawn Co-op.
Six seventy-eight Rondo Avenue had been constructed sometime between 1910 and 1925, when the neighborhood was still largely Jewish, and until the Credjafawns took over the store, it had been run as a neighborhood grocery by a succession of Jewish owners, including Jack Dimond, who supported the organization by buying ads in the Credjafawn’s concert programs. In those days, writes Evelyn Fairbanks in Days of Rondo (1990), both sides of Rondo Avenue were lined with groceries, bakeries, shoe-repair shops, banks, and other businesses, many of them in duplicate: one African-American owned, one Jewish owned, “but gradually the Jewish businesses followed the Jewish customers to their new homes in Highland Park.”
In 1946, Dimond sold or leased his store to the Credjafawn Social Club, which operated it as a food co-operative. The lively 1948 photographs of the Co-op Store document a tidy, well-equipped corner store with white-painted (or porcelained) cases, a two-tiered produce display (“Frigidmist Air Conditioned”) backed by tall mirrors, and grocery carts small enough to thread their way through very narrow aisles. The Co-op’s two big windows—one facing Rondo, the other St. Alban—were partly papered with posters featuring the National Cooperative Business Association’s familiar twin-pines logo.
The Co-op did not survive long; by the mid-1950s, the store had become Martin’s Grocery. Soon thereafter, it and its neighboring businesses were swept away: even before Interstate-94 hollowed out the Rondo neighborhood, its core was demolished to prepare the way for the coming freeway. Today, what remains of Rondo Avenue hangs on the southern lip of I-94, now renamed Concordia Avenue, its businesses long since gone.
Mississippi Market is proud to be the successor to this pioneering Saint Paul food cooperative. It’s fitting that we commemorate Credjafawn Co-op Store’s brief existence and display the photographs of the hopeful, committed co-op grocery that preceded the one where you shop today.
Photos of the Credjafawn Co-op Store are currently on display in the seating area of the Selby & Dale store throughout the month of February, in honor of African American History Month.
Special thanks to Lisa Tabor of CultureBrokers L.L.C., publishers of the “Spirit of Rondo” pamphlet for introducing us to the Credjafawn Co-op. For more information, visit www.culturebrokers.com