By Ivan Raconteur
There is good news and bad news regarding Lester Prairie’s grocery store.
The good news is that the store, which has been on the market since last May, could soon have a new local owner.
The bad news is that if the deal falls through and another buyer is not found soon, the current owner could pull up stakes.
Prairie Market owner Dan Wagner of Wells, and First Community Bank CEO/President Douglas Jilek appeared before the Lester Prairie City Council last Monday to let people know what is going on with the store.
“I have to be out of here by Thursday, May 1,” Wagner said.
He added that he is surprised that the store has not already been sold.
“If the store was in my area, I’d buy it in a minute,” Wagner commented.
Wagner and his wife, Shari, purchased the business in February 2006. The family owns several stores in southern Minnesota, and one in northern Iowa.
They remodeled the store and added new freezers and scanners, but decided to sell the business to focus on their core market area.
“Whoever buys it will be getting a good deal, both from us and from the bank. They will essentially be getting the equipment at half-price,” Wagner said.
He described the store as a turnkey business, and said it offers a great start-up opportunity for potential buyers.
He said Lester Prairie residents Mark and Linda Detlefsen are in the process of putting together a deal for the business.
Jilek said the bank has been working with the Detlefsens to help them get a small business loan.
“The store is making it, and is cash-flowing. They are not leaving because it was not making money,” Jilek said.
Wagner said the store averages about 1,500 customers per week.
Wagner said some customers have asked why the store has not been running weekly ads.
“We just don’t have the manpower,” Wagner said, adding that sales have held up very well despite the lack of advertising.
Wagner said he expects theDetlefsens to be successful in purchasing the business, but if the Detlefsens are not able to put together a deal, and if another buyer does not step forward, he could be forced to close the store.
“I need to have something done in the next two months, before summer. The next six to seven weeks are crucial to me,” Wagner said.
His son, Chris Wagner, moved to Lester Prairie to manage the store when the family bought it, but has since moved on to run the family’s newest store in Pine Island.
“The Lester Prairie Investment Group still owns the building. The Wagners could pull out their equipment on June 1 (if a deal is not reached). Our purpose is to let people know what is going on,” Jilek said.
Mayor Eric Angvall, who owns Angvall Hardware and Mercantile, expressed concern about how the possible store closing could affect other Lester Prairie businesses.
“If they go down, the rest of us are going to follow, I can assure you,” Angvall commented.