COLERIDGE — There are some bare spots on the shelves, but there’s a positive buzz in the Coleridge community nonetheless.
This Cedar County town of about 600 residents is pleased to have a grocery store downtown once more.
“Talk about being excited — when I got the letter about the grocery reopening, I ran right out of the house to Regg’s office to ask about a job,” said Melody Storm, the store’s assistant manager.
Ken’s Korner Market opened for business last week — thanks to the efforts of Regg Pehrson and others — after closing its doors last June.
It was a blow to the community at the time. It meant a shopping trip for groceries was at least 10 miles away.
Pehrson, a Coleridge insurance agent, heard the discontent around town and knew the residents wanted the grocery store back. So, he spearheaded a drive to gather a group of community members who were willing to be part of an investor group — dedicated individuals willing to put their money where their mouth was and buy the business back so it could reopen.
It took a few months to organize as Pehrson said he and others tried to keep the effort local and low key. But word of the effort quickly circulated around town.
There wasn’t a dollar amount required to be an investor. That was left open, and in a few weeks, there were 70 investors of all ages, ready to be in the grocery business.
In early December, a letter announced the intent to reopen the store.
“The community was very receptive, to say the least,” Pehrson said, smiling.
The biggest challenge for the owner group was to find a supplier to deliver groceries to stock the shelves. They could find suppliers for bread, chips and pop because these types of items are delivered frequently to convenience stores. But other items were more of a challenge.
After exhausting many avenues, a grocer in a neighboring community offered to order supplies for them if they would come to his store and pick them up.
Filling the shelves is time-consuming because that local grocer has to order the supplies for his store weekly and then if there is room on the delivery truck, they squeeze in some items for Ken’s Korner Market.
“We hope to be fully stocked next week,” said Paula Dierks, the store’s new manager.
Deliveries come on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“I’ve always been in retail and this sounded like a good opportunity,” Dierks said, as she left the meat department where she was training a new meat cutter. “It’s been so much fun, something different every day.”
Dierks said that along with all the other areas found in a small grocery, they also have a small bakery. As they open the door every morning at 8, customers stroll in, and head straight for the freshly baked cinnamon rolls, lemon bars or brownies. By 9:30 a.m., they are sold out.
Store hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 am to noon on Sunday.
Along with several volunteers from the community who came in and helped with getting the store up and going, there are six employees.
Pehrson is sure that number will grow as the shelves are filled and they employ some local high school students after school and weekends.
The new owners were fortunate everything was still in the 5,400-square-foot building, so they were able to get up and running quickly.
Also lending a helping hand is Ken Mitchell — the “Ken” of Ken’s Korner Market. He had been the community’s grocer for too many years to count. Mitchell retired about 10 years ago and agreed to come back and offer words of wisdom and his skill in the meat department.
In the future, the grocery is interested in offering small catering services and making grocery deliveries to elderly residents or people who can’t leave their houses.
“I am so proud of this community, the way they pulled together to make this project work,” Pehrson said. “And we need the community to make it work.”