Kum & Go opened its first walk-up store today in the Edna M. Griffin Building at the corner of Seventh and Locust streets.
Photo by Joe Crimmings

The ampersands are everywhere.

Inside a round white sign attached to the outside of the corner of the building. Painted on a brick wall inside the store, connecting “7th” and “Locust.”  In front of the words “hydrate,” “refuel” and “refresh” that hang over the cooler stuffed with cold drinks. Beamed onto the terrazzo floor.

And between “Kum” and “Go,” the Des Moines-based convenience store chain that today opened its first urban outlet, located on the street level of the historic Edna M. Griffin Building at 319 Seventh St.

“This is an idea that came to fruition as a pilot to see how a fuel-less, parking-less, urban walk-up store would do with our community,” said Ariel Rubin, Kum & Go spokesperson. “We see cities urbanizing. We see more people moving to downtowns in our footprint. We wanted to find a way to bring people to our stores in the places where they work and live.”

Kum & Go expects most of the new store’s customers to come from the estimated 10,000 people who work within a two-block area of the new store, Rubin said. EMC Insurance Co.’s offices are located a block south. The 801 Grand office tower is a block to the northeast. The Ruan Center immediately to the north and Principal Financial Group’s offices, two blocks to the north. The Downtown Marriott Hotel is also across the street.

While the pandemic has closed many offices, workers are expected to begin returning downtown mid-summer. 

The store is also expected to draw customers from the people who live downtown, Rubin said.
A key feature of the new store is its focus on sustainability, Rubin said. Recycled paper bags will be provided to customers instead of plastic. In addition, the store will use compostable silverware and straws, recyclable cups and lids, and recycled food packaging.

What won’t be found in the new downtown store are hot dog grills, a staple in other Kum & Go convenience stores.

“This store is focusing on offering healthier food options,” Rubin said. 

The new Kum & Go is located in space once occupied by Katz Drug Store, the site of a sit-in protesting the former store’s refusal to serve blacks. The protest on July 9, 1948 was led by Edna M. Griffin and led to a 1949 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that make it illegal in Iowa to deny service to people based on their race. 

Kum & Go commissioned artwork to pay tribute to Griffin and her legacy. The artwork by Jordan Weber, a Des Moines-based artist and activist whose work focuses on inner-city communities nationwide, can be seen through the store’s plate- glass windows.

The 135-year-old building at the corner of Seventh and Locust streets was originally called the Flynn Building. It was renamed the Edna M. Griffin Building in 1998.

A group of investors – Des Moines Griffin Building LLC – bought the building in 2016 for $1.77 million, Polk County real estate records show. During the past 18 or so months, the six-story building has undergone a nearly $13 million renovation, converting upper floors to apartments and office space and the first level to the new Kum & Go store.

The new convenience store will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Monday through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

RELATED: To see a photo gallery of the downtown Kum & Go, click here.

Artwork by Jordan Weber of Des Moines pays tribute to the legacy of local civil rights activist Edna Griffin. 
Photo by Joe Crimmings