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Super One Foods founder Jim Miner Sr. dies at 77

Jim Miner Sr., who began working in the grocery business at age 10 and was later instrumental in the growth of Miner's Inc. -- owner of Super One Foods -- from one store to 31, died Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 77.

"I admired the guy immensely," Miner's Vice President of Operations Robert Halvorson said Monday. Halvorson began working at Miner's in 1972, three years before Miner became president of the family-owned business.

"Everyone at Miner's Inc. is deeply saddened by the death of Jim Sr.," Halvorson said. "He was loved and respected by all those who knew and worked with him. Jim was an amazing entrepreneur and mentor."

While he remained Miner's president until his death, Miner had in recent years left more of the day-to-day operations to five children and others in the company.

"One of Jim's strengths was to make sure that we had good solid leadership," Halvorson said. "He did a great job of mentoring his family and the leadership here. We're in great shape."

His son Mike, who was a vice president and the face of the family-owned business, died of a heart attack in 2004 at age 46.

His son Jim Jr., also a vice president, issued a statement Monday: "My dad was dedicated to our family, a great teacher, coach and cheerleader. He will be sorrowfully missed."

Miner's Inc. has its roots in the 1943 opening of a small Grand Rapids tavern by Miner's parents, Anton and Ida. The couple began selling milk and bread when they saw a market for the items. They later built the family's first grocery store, Miner's Market, along U.S. Highway 2.

In 1954, the store was renamed Piggly Wiggly. The family opened a second store in Virginia in 1963 -- which Jim Miner ran for several years before moving to Duluth, where the company had opened a third store in the Woodland neighborhood in 1965. Several more stores followed by 1975, when Tony and Ida Miner retired and Jim Miner became the company's president.

The next year -- seeing the developing trend of bigger, warehouse-type supermarkets -- he opened the company's first such store in Cloquet. In 1977, the store was renamed Super One Foods -- the first of many.

The Hermantown-based company now owns 25 Super Ones, three U-Saves and the Woodland Marketplace Foods grocery stores. It has stores in four states, plus its wholesale operation in Duluth. Prevented by Minnesota law from selling spirits in grocery stores, the company recently bought two liquor stores, in Cloquet and Duluth. The company employs more than 2,400 people, and is one of Minnesota's largest privately held supermarket owners.

Always looking at expanding, in 2006 Miner's bought seven Jubilee and Festival Foods stores, including five in the Twin Ports, increasing the company's dominance of the Twin Ports retail grocery market. It bought a competitor in Hurley in 2009 and another in Wadena in 2010, and expanded existing stores across its chain.