If all goes according to plan, the Ryans will take over Gary's Family Foods in Dassel
By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN Enthusiasm was in the air during the Dassel City Council meeting last Monday as new potential grocery store owners introduced themselves during the meeting.
Cam and Mary Beth Ryan of Albertville visited with the council, along with long-time grocery store owners Gary and Gail Stanley.
If everything falls into place, the Ryans may be able to take over sometime in May. They plan to rename the store “Red Rooster Foods.”
The Ryans have more than 30 years of experience in the grocery business. They plan to continue with the “Our Family,” brand as a main label.
“I love the grocery business,” Cam Ryan said. The couple first thought of buying a store in the area when they heard a few years ago about a grocery store that closed Howard Lake, in 2006, he said. “But (my wife) told me the wrong town,” Cam said.
So, Cam researched Dassel instead, making contact with the Stanleys. Gary Stanley wishes to retire and play golf, it was noted.
In fact, the Ryans met each other at a grocery store and fell in love at that time, Mary Beth Ryan said. “It seems to be in our blood,” she added.
“We plan to become a part of the community,” Cam Ryan said, despite the drive for the short term.
The Ryans plan to relocate to Dassel as soon as possible. For the time being, they will have to stay put in Albertville, since selling their house in this market would be hard to do, they said.
Cam Ryan is employed by Nash Finch, and has been for many years. He has worked in all sizes of stores, from small ones to large ones managing a staff of 260 people. He has worked in the upper Midwest, South Dakota and North Dakota, including a grocery store located in Jasper, MN and has also worked in Wisconsin.
He picks all the deals for advertising items in dairy and frozen for the upper Midwest area for grocers. “I have a lot of contacts and know a lot of people,” Cam Ryan said.
He was born in a town smaller than Dassel in northern Minnesota, with a population of “233 counting cats and dogs,” Ryan joked. Cam went to school in Pipestone.
Mary Beth Ryan, who is originally from northern Wisconsin, also has a background in the grocery business. “We’re really excited about this opportunity,” she said.
Cam Ryan is known for being connected to the community he serves. In the past, the business he was associated with won the Illinois Business of the Year award given by the Special Olympics.
He is proud of this accomplishment, which was a fundraising quarter promotion that morphed into other ideas, and eventually became the main fundraiser for Special Olympics there.
He attended the awards ceremony and said “You can’t have a heart and not enjoy that,” seeing all the people whose lives were changed, he said.
Although the building is in good shape, the Ryans plan to make some updates to attract new customers.
They plan to introduce foods and services, improve the building and perhaps add an awning to the front.
“We can’t compete with Walmart,” Cam Ryan said. However, they are hoping that residents will shop locally if gas prices continue to go up, he said.
Mayor Mike Scanlon gave special acknowledgement to Gary and Gail Stanley for their service in running the store. “Everyone owes Gary and his wife gratitude for keeping it going,” he said.
As for the City of Dassel, it has no intentions of following down the same road as Howard Lake did when it lost its own grocery store.
Howard Lake just recently bought the grocery building for $423,814 and is leasing it back to the business owners, the latter of whom are expected to buy the building in five years.
Howard Lake Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp told the Herald Journal in the past that she wouldn’t wish the loss of a grocery store on any community.
Scanlon was fully aware of the importance of a grocery store in the community, saying that when many people come into town to gather groceries, they go on to patronize other places.
“It starts a shopping experience,” Scanlon said. This is something corroborated by reports in Howard Lake, from seniors who have a hard time obtaining groceries locally, to other retail businesses that reported the loss of customers when the store closed there.
The City of Dassel will be offering the Ryans up to $50,000 interest-free deferred loan for updates to the store through an EDA fund.
Trimming the budget, once again
Cutting away more budget items was done by Administrator Myles McGrath, once again.
The 2010 budget had to be amended to reflect the reduction of about $31,000, or 2.83 percent.
Departments were reduced, although it was noted that some things can’t be cut back, such as the annual audit and election expenses.
“Myles did a really good job, line-for-line,” Council Member Jason Benzing said of the cutting procedure.
Will Dassel full-time employees go union?
Although the subject of “bargaining units,” otherwise defined as unions, was not discussed at the meeting, it has been confirmed that the Dassel city employees are looking into this.
“We have been contacted by the State Bureau of Mediation Services that a bargaining unit is in the process of potentially formulating,” McGrath noted. “This would now be followed up by a balloting process to determine if a majority of the employees wish to be represented.”
Water pressure should be better
In some areas of the city, the water pressure should be better now, due to the new water tower, it was noted.
Council Member Bob Lalone asked if the pressure could be checked, with engineer Chuck DeWolf affirming that yes, checks could be done.
Fifth Street and Summit should notice a change in pressure, DeWolf said. The lake, not so much.
Scanlon said that Summit experienced such low pressure it was hard to take a shower on the second floor of some buildings.
Odds and ends
Turning to other subjects, the council:
• discussed a federal requirement for reflectivity on signs, which will cause the city to replace several signs in order to meet the new standard.
The financial impact will be wide-ranging, for example, 3M stock shot up once the announcement was made, since the business is associated with the reflection needed on the signs.
This will impact counties that make their own signs, too, which used to save taxpayer money.
An inventory of the signs needs to be taken by 2012, and they must be replaced by 2015, it was noted.
• talked again about installing garbage cans downtown so that people walking could dispose of unwanted items. It was noted that new garbage cans are expensive.
• approved a payment for water tower-related work in the amount of $12,468.
• noted that Benzing, McGrath, and Scanlon will attend the League of Minnesota Cities convention.
• approved Thirsty’s Tavern for a 3.2 beer license, wine license and a strong beer permit. “We’ve not seen any difficulties,” McGrath said.
• approved Thirsty’s to conduct its annual Wednesday night Drive-in Nights, which take place June 9 through Sept. 1, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings.