‘It’s about better service for everybody’

Farmers Store changes vendors, secondary brand

By Anna Jauhola
Through the next several weeks, Farmers Store shoppers will notice a few extra people in the building as they prepare for a vendor and brand change.
The 116-year-old Hallock business is switching grocery distributors and will now be supplied by Mason Brothers for grocery and Russ Davis for produce. Both businesses have warehouses in Wadena, Minn.
“We have more in common with Mason Brothers,” Swanson said. “We’re a small, independent store and Mason Brothers is set up to serve small, independent stores.”
Since the early 2000s, the Farmers Store has carried the Our Family brand through the distributor Food Pride and before that, it was SuperValu. However, over the last year or so, it has been difficult to obtain products they ordered, said Tom Swanson, Farmers Store CEO.
“Both of them are great big companies and they feed great big stores like Hornbacher’s and Hugo’s,” Swanson said.
Through Mason Brothers, the grocery store will now carry the secondary brand Hy-Top, which can also be found in neighboring grocery stores in Lancaster and Lake Bronson. Swanson said the store will continue carrying all the name-brand products customers love and only the secondary brand is changing.
“More here is going to stay the same than changes,” Swanson said.
He began working on changing vendors last fall when they realized the vendor wasn’t improving on their delivery. Often, items would be advertised in the weekly flyer but the Farmers Store would either not receive any of those items or only a portion of what they’d ordered. Last week’s ad featured blueberries on the front page, for example, so Swanson and his crew ordered “a whole bunch of blueberries.” However, the company only sent a third of that order, he said.
“Then we run out right away and people get mad. And I don’t blame them and it makes us look stupid. Maybe somebody drove 20 miles to get blueberries or they’re at the top of their list and they can’t get them,” Swanson said. “That’s something that’s been going on for a year. So that’s why we’re making the change. It’s about better service for everybody.”
It hasn’t only been the produce section that’s suffered. They’ve had issues getting enough meat, including accessory items like sausage casings and curing salt. Customers may have noticed the lack of Little Smokies sausages during the holiday season. The company simply hasn’t been able to supply the Farmers Store to Swanson’s satisfaction, especially as he has listened to his customer’s frustrations.
So as Swanson began looking for a replacement company he wasn’t sure what distributors were left in the area that would fit with a small store’s plan.
“Then out of the blue one day, this person walks in from Mason Brothers and it was just like it was meant to be,” Swanson said.
As the switch begins, Swanson said all the Our Family brand products will be marked down to sell through March 13. This week and next week, there will be no sales flyer for the Farmers Store as Mason Brothers helps get the new inventory in place. Swanson emphasized that the store will remain open with the same hours during this transition.
Customers will begin to see changes this week, including the addition of Abby’s Bakery items in the deli area. Swanson said they are also going to update the decor, starting with the aisle signs.
These changes are a few of many steps to help ensure the future of the store, but the most important step was the creation of Mooseroot Enterprises L.L.C., which “owns the store,” Swanson said.
“It’s going to be here for the foreseeable future for the residents of Hallock and the surrounding area,” he said. “Let’s just say steps have been taken for after I get old and die for it to continue on.”
He created Mooseroot Enterprises to secure the future of the Farmers Store. He said that was the easy part. The hard part was building the store 25 years ago, which if he had to build a new store today, it would be nigh impossible.
“The whole point of this move is to not give up anything, but to gain,” Swanson said. “I’m optimistic it will work and so is everybody here. The mood among the workers is much improved and it’s going to be fun. Ordering produce and actually getting it is going to be just wonderful.”

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