The North Co. building. Photo by Eric Best

RyKrisp building gets new life as business incubator

Once a factory, the North Co. building is now a hub for small businesses.

In what was once the world’s only RyKrisp factory is now a buzzing building full of small businesses.

The factory, located in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood of Southeast Minneapolis, has been transformed over the past couple years to become the North Co. building. The project’s founders had a goal of creating a home for budding companies, especially those that produce American-made goods.

“The whole goal and objective with this was to turn it into a co-working facility for small businesses,” said Ben VandenWymelenberg, a partner behind the building. “They’re all different types of companies, but all kind of making the first step. With most of them this is their first space that they’ve rented out.”

VandenWymelenberg is the founder and CEO of Woodchuck USA, a manufacturer of wooden accessories and corporate packaging. The company, which moved its offices and production space just a couple blocks down 9th Street into the building, takes up about a third of North Co. The new home gives Woodchuck roughly 10 times the manufacturing space.

The 80,000 square feet of available space in the building has gone quickly. Before VandenWymelenberg and his partners have finished renovation work, the North Co. building is 90-percent leased with just three vacant spaces left, he said.

The current mix of about 20 tenants includes several clothing companies, including Great Lakes Clothing, MPLS / STP Clothing Co., Knot Clothing & Belt Co., William Rogue & Co., Mill City Fineries, Fisher + Baker, Marked Leather and Urban Undercover. There are also marketing and digital advertising agencies (Macleod & Co., The Social Lights, Hecco), nut butter producer Buddy’s Nut Butter, hair stylist Whitney Vermeer, Silver Creek Paddle (paddleboard rentals) and NeuroTinker (neuroscience education).

Renovations are nearly complete on the 94-year-old building, formerly a cracker plant owned by packaged foods company ConAgra. Once of the last pieces is North Co.’s lobby, which will feature co-working space for tenants.

VandenWymelenberg said staying in the Marcy-Holmes area keeps Woodchuck close to the University of Minnesota, where it draws interns. It’s also where the young entrepreneur studied as he started Woodchuck.

“It’s easy to get to, close to downtown, but… you don’t have to fight over parking. Overall, it’s been great,” he said.

As the company matures, VandenWymelenberg said they’ve been honing their products. Woodchuck’s most popular items are its wood journals, flasks and business card holders. It also produces cases for phones and laptop computers.

“When you’re a startup you have to say ‘yes’ to everything that brings in money, and you have the luxury over time that you can start to get more specialized and just do the things that you’re good at,” he said.

The North Co. building is located at 610 SE 9th St.

Photo by Eric Best
Photo by Eric Best