Can you credit a volcano for celebrating 80 years in business?
You can if you are Keith Johanneson, president of Johanneson’s Incorporated. Johanneson’s Inc. includes all four Marketplace Foods Supermarkets in Minot.
“It all started out in Iceland back in 1873 when a volcano erupted and covered the land in so much soot that they couldn’t even feed the animals,” said Johanneson. “That’s when my great-grandparents migrated to Manitoba and northeast North Dakota.”
Johanneson’s father was a butcher in the small town of Mountain, which eventually led to the opening of a small country grocery store. Later a move was made to Fargo, again operating a grocery store. By 1956 the Johannesons opened an expanded facility in Bemidji, Minnesota, which became the family headquarters.
At the time, Keith Johanneson was employed by Super Valu as a market analyst. He left that position to run a Johanneson family store in Detroit Lakes.
“I’ve run the company over 40 years,” said Johanneson. “When I took over we only had three stores. They were older facilities and I had to rebuild things, slowly acquiring new stores and remodeling. We’ve been in Minot 29 years. It started with Albertson’s Supermarket.”
When the owner of Minot’s Miracle Mart stores passed away, Johanneson was asked to consider purchasing the stores. He did, including the Arrowhead location that was closed during the historic 2011 flood.
“We got escorted out of the parking lot by National Guard troops,” recalled Johanneson. “We anticipated serious problems in the community.”
Within a few days Johanneson received a call from City Hall telling him about North Hill being virtually isolated from grocery stores by flood water. Johanneson quickly made arrangements to use a large tent owned by the Minot Y’s Men and it was erected on a parking lot at the Minot airport.
“I got hold of Spartan-Nash and we put a grocery store together. We had coolers and everything,” said Johanneson. “It really opened my eyes up to the fact that there’s a lot of people on North Hill.”
The experience resulted in Johanneson building a Marketplace Foods Supermarket complex in northwest Minot. Other businesses have been constructed in the area too.
“It is probably one of the more attractive supermarket buildings in North Dakota,” said Johanneson. “It is very successful and serves North Hill and Air Force base people.”
Johanneson’s stores have seen several changes in operation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Early on in the pandemic, he purchased masks and plastic gloves for his employees and directed daily cleaning of facilities.
“I wanted Service Master in stores every day, seven days a week. I want our stores to be the safest place to shop and we haven’t had any incidents,” remarked Johanneson.
The long-time CEO admitted he was speculating, but thought the dynamics of grocery shopping and going out to eat will be forever changed due to coronavirus. Among the changes he has already seen is the closing of salad bars at delicatessens and a preference for certain items at supermarkets.
“All the kids have been home, not eating in the school cafeteria, so it’s been kind of a different ride,” remarked Johanneson. “We sell a lot more prepared food. Younger people are learning to cook again. Young housewives are baking like crazy.”
Johanneson has learned to adjust to what supermarket customers desire, something necessary to remain successful in business for 80 years. Marketplace Foods has four locations in Minot and one in Bemidji. The company also owns four KJ’s Fresh Market stores in Wisconsin and a KJ’s that recently opened in Moose Lake, Minnesota. And, says Johanneson, there’s more expansion in the works.
“I just tied up the franchises for Pet Supplies Plus in North Dakota. We’ll be putting in six or seven stores,” said Johanneson. “I’ve been in their stores and was really impressed.”
Also, said Johanneson, “I’m now offering employees a 100% stock ownership plan. My employees are going to have a great ride. I have an exceptionally good group of people. I’m so proud of what they do and how they take care of the community.”
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