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Super two become Super One

Photos by Sara Hacking Jean Peterson reaches for a grocery item last Friday the day before the downtown Wadena Super One closed its doors. Peterson has shopped at the store since 1981, she said.1 / 5
The meat department is pretty well emptied out on Friday at the downtown Super One.2 / 5
Photo by Sara Hacking The shelves were getting empty at the downtown Super One location last Friday.3 / 5
Super One managers Jim Walz, left, and Jason Bowers are manning the transition of The Grocery Store by Mason Brothers to Super One's new location. Day one for the combined store was Monday.4 / 5
Fresh fruit is for sale under the Super One banner on Ironwood Avenue.5 / 5

The consolidation of The Grocery Store by Mason Brothers and Super One was inevitable, according to management.

"I think we've all been in this town long enough to see that this town is not big enough to give the volume to three full grocery stores," said Store Manager Jason Bowers.

When it was just Super One and Fix's things were fine, he said. That all changed when Wal-Mart came to town.

"We're competing against the largest corporation in the world and the world's largest employer," Bowers said.

With the amount of business that was left over, Super One owner Miner's Inc. and Mason Brothers realized the only way to make a go of it was to "join forces" so to speak, he said. The transition has been ongoing since the announcement was made in June and Monday was day one for the two stores to combine into one.

The Super One sign post by U.S. Highway 71 and the store front sign went up last week, he said.

Bowers was the store manager of the downtown location of Super One and is sharing management duties with Jim Walz, who managed The Grocery Store. Bowers will eventually transfer to a Duluth Super One.

The transition has been good, but calling it "smooth" might be stretching the truth, Walz said with a smile. It's been a real learning experience to see how a big operation like Miner's does things differently than an independent grocery store would.

"With all of their stores they can buy in such major volume that it's exciting that you can see that value ... passed on to consumers," Walz said.

Super One dropped just about every price on the Mason Brothers shelf stock items in the middle of July, Bowers said.

Mason Brothers is the store's main supplier and Super One will have the ability to order everything that was there before, he said. Mason Brothers will also be the main supplier for candy and tobacco for all of Super One Foods.

The store is staffed by a combination of Super One and former Mason Brothers employees, but there was some downsizing, Bowers said. Almost every Mason Brothers employee was offered a position when they went through the interview process. About half chose to take their new position, he said. Almost all of the Super One staff came over to the new store.

Moving to the new location has been a learning experience for everyone involved, Bowers said. Super One employees are familiar with the policies and procedures but not the building. The Grocery Store employees are familiar with the building but not the Super One policies, he said.

"It's just a ... melding process that we're going through right now," Bowers said. "We have to get away from that mentality of 'us' and 'them' and become a 'we.'"

The public in general has reacted very positively to the change, he said.

"I think most folks have been pretty understanding of why this needed to happen," Bowers said.

The only real negative thing he's heard is about the change in location, he said.

There are no grocery stores or convenience stores on the south side of the train tracks in Wadena now.

"There was no room for us to expand in that downtown location," Bowers said.

The move to Ironwood Avenue was an opportunity to get a bigger, updated facility, he said. Their customers have a lot more space to shop that isn't so tight and cramped.

Super One will continue to honor the delivery arrangements The Grocery Store had with customers, but it is not planning to expand the service, Bowers said. Friendly Rider is available in Wadena.

Friendly Rider Transit Coordinator Bob Roggenkamp said drivers have always carried people's groceries to their doorway and they will continue to help. They are not able to go into people's homes, though, he said.

The downtown Super One closed for business on Saturday, Bowers said. Crews are packing up the remaining boxes and cans and sending them to other Super One stores.

"We gained a brand new building," Bowers said about the transition. "We've gained a business partnership with Mason Brothers."

Super One is also expanding store hours. The store will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the tobacco shop will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.