Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 29, 2003

Nelson's Marketplace opening in early Jan.

By Ryan Gueningsman

The finishing touches are being made, and Lester Prairie should have a grocery store by Jan. 12, if plans work out for Nelson's Marketplace owner Carey Nelson.

"We're shooting to open around Jan. 12. Everything should be stocked by then," Nelson said.

Nelson has two co-managers in place, Justin Rooney and Brian Block, who will also manage another store that Nelson has in the works in Buffalo Lake.

Rooney has retail experience and will be moving to Hutchinson, and Block has also been in the grocery industry before.

Nelson has also hired a meat department manager, Dennis DeGodt of Glencoe, to oversee the new store's meat department.

"He's going to be a great asset because he has worked in the natural food and meat departments before," Nelson said. "He's got huge experience, and will bring a lot to the plate to make our meat department a real speciality."

Nelson has been able to do this project cheaper than most people would have due to some creative construction, and help from the community.

To build a grocery store this size, it would cost about $800,000, according to Nelson. He said that he has been able to do everything for about one-third of that amount, thanks largely to a large chunk of equipment purchased at an auction.

"We bought it a day before an auction at a store in Chatfield," he said. "The guy had closed, and only had the equipment for about three years. He paid about a half a million dollars for it. We bought it for about $62,000, so that's why we were able to make this whole deal work."

Another part of the cost savings to the store include inviting members of the Lester Prairie High School football team in to do some demolition and construction work.

"We've hired some high school kids who come after school and help us do everything," Nelson said. "The kids have been amazing. They're doing half the construction ­ the ceiling, walls, trim work ­ we've been able to save a lot of money that way.

"Then working with Schauer Construction, we're meeting in the middle to get this finished off."

Nelson said that he thinks people will be shocked when they see the store.

"People don't know what to expect," he said. "The reason people will shop here is because it's clean, and the prices are competitive. We're trying to compete to keep these people shopping here locally."

"We were able to do this project, and have been able to use other funds to decorate the store uniquely. The departments will be themed, and have a European-looking small-town store look," he said.

"This will be a full-service, full-variety store," he added. "We will have 26 doors of frozen foods, and we probably added 25 percent more space to the store by knocking out the back room."

There have been several different opening dates thrown around for the new store, but Nelson wanted "to do it right."

"We spent about a month longer than I was hoping to," Nelson said. "With an older building, you run into some complications, but we wanted to do it right."

The produce department will have a copper-painted suspended ceiling, with crown-molding around the top, giving it a "rich elegant, yet old-time grocery store feeling," Nelson said.

There will also be forest green awnings over the windows, and signage. It will be bright, with light coming in from the outside, in addition to display lights placed around the interior of the store.

The biggest issue Nelson is facing right now is the parking. He is hoping to have Juniper Street made into a one-way as soon as possible.

Future plans

Nelson is also purchasing a store in Buffalo Lake, which he will begin working on this spring. With four stores (he also owns stores in Hector and Brownton), he will have a full semi-truck, so his cost will be split into quarters now, rather than one store, which will end up saving him some money.

His advertising will also now be split amongst the four stores.

Another project he is working on for the future is providing a service where a van will go to towns and bringing people to Nelson's to do their grocery shopping.

"It wouldn't be a delivery system, but bringing people to the store," Nelson said. "I think it would be a hit."

"I think with the environment the store will create, and the friendly people, it'll be the talk of the town," he said with a smile.

Applications are still being accepted. Nelson said there will be about 15 more people hired to staff the store. Within the next week, he will be calling to set up interviews.

To contact Nelson's Marketplace about employment opportunities or other questions, call (320) 395-8467. Positions are still available for stocking and cashiers.

Store hours are going to be Mondays through Saturdays 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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