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The end of an era for The Marketplace manager
Sept. 26, 2011
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An open house will take place Saturday, Oct. 1 from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Marketplace for manager, Larry Wasmund

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

COKATO, MN – “I’m a bit uncomfortable with this,” said Larry Wasmund humbly about the interview with him in the upstairs offices at The Marketplace. “The importance to the store are all those people down there, who make the store run, and meet and greet the customers.”

Larry Wasmund has managed The Marketplace in Cokato since it opened in December 1982, and will work his final day Friday, Sept 30.

An open house will take place Saturday, Oct. 1 from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Marketplace.

Wasmund began working for the Marohn family (who own The Marketplace chain) at the Annandale Red Owl in December 1981.

At the beginning of his career, Wasmund spent a year working at both the Annandale Red Owl and The Marketplace in Buffalo, where manager Connie Nelson trained him to become a grocery retail manager.

After the Marohns purchased the warehouse in Cokato in the summer of 1982, Wasmund worked to get the store ready for business, opening it in December of that year as the manager.

Marv Marohn continued to help Wasmund learn the ropes of grocery management as the owner of The Marketplace in Cokato.

“Marv has been, and still is, my mentor in grocery retail,” Wasmund said. “The unique thing about the Marohn family is that if you take the time to learn from them, they give you a sense of ownership.”

Wasmund credits Marohn with teaching him motivation – telling him a long time ago that there doesn’t need to be a lot of managers, but people who can learn the task or department, take ownership of that task or department, and don’t need someone telling them what to do next.

“I shared this in every interview I have done,” Wasmund said. “We don’t hire puppets. We need people who can learn the job and take ownership of it. The ones who have done that have excelled.”

For 10 years, Wasmund commuted between Annandale and Cokato while working in what he called the “little box store.”

There was a smaller group of people working in that store, and one of the Wasmund’s favorite memories is of the Saturdays before Christmas.

The employees would decorate the store with straw bales and Christmas decorations, and for the first 10 minutes of every hour, would sing or play Christmas carols on their instruments for the customers.

Eventually, the Marohns built the store that is now The Marketplace, adding it to the warehouse, which is now used to store stock.

“On ribbon-cutting day, the community filled up the parking lot,” Wasmund said. “They really took pride in this store.”

He noted how people in the community really take ownership of both the community and the store.

“After the grand opening of this store, people wanted to come in after hours to show others ‘their’ store,” he said.

It was because of this community and the support it provided to the grocery store that the Marohns built the current store the size that it is, Wasmund said.

“The Marohns could see how well-patronized the other store was, and thought the community deserved a larger store,” he added.

Wasmund’s wife, Nancy, has also worked at The Marketplace part time for a number of years, and will be retiring, as well.

“We are very family-oriented, and this is a way for us to have time together,” Wasmund said. “Our relationships are very important to us.”

He joked that, “as her husband,” while she is punched in, he is her boss, but once she punches out, he better duck.

One of the things the Wasmunds said they will miss the most are the people of the community and the relationships they have established over the years with the community, the people they work with, and with the Marohn family.

“We will miss all the hugs we are allowed to give and get from our customers,” Wasmund said.

Although Wasmund always wanted to be a minister and never saw himself working in the grocery retail business, this has been like a ministry for him, he said.

“We have had the opportunity, through time, to help a lot of people,” Wasmund said.

“The relationships that develop with people over time have been a wonderful experience,” Nancy added.

The Wasmunds moved to Sartell earlier this year, and are looking forward to the relationships they will be building in their new community and their new church home.

They plan to take a few months to regather their thoughts.

“I will work somewhere on a part-time basis,” Wasmund said.

He appreciates the years his wife and family took a “back seat” to the store with no complaints, and plans to spend more time with them now.

“We’ve had date night once a week; now it can be anytime, after retirement,” Wasmund said.

He also hopes to volunteer his time helping others, saying he had always had a passion for hospice care, and would like to receive some advanced training in that field.

The new manager at The Marketplace will be Jeff Weinzetl, who is moving over from the Annandale store.

“The new manager comes with experience, new enthusiasm, new ideas, and new expectations that will be good for The Marketplace,” Wasmund said.

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