Minot shoppers will soon have an even wider variety of items to choose from at several local grocery stores while also getting to pay less for the privilege.
Close to four years ago MarketPlace Foods and Miracle Mart came under the same ownership group, Johanneson Inc., and now the fruits of that merger are about to be realized by customers and employees.
Ralph Towery, manager of MarketPlace Foods, said all three Miracle Mart locations - Dakota Square Mall, Arrowhead Shopping Center and South Broadway - will undergo a name change to MarketPlace Foods by Nov. 1. Remodeling has already been completed at the Dakota Square and Arrowhead Miracle Mart locations, while remodeling at the South Broadway location is under way.
Towery said the remodeling at the South Broadway location will be done in phases since the holiday season is fast approaching. He hopes to have phase one done by the first or second week of November.
"And then we're going to just let it calm down, and then we'll start the second phase of the project next February, once the holidays are over," Towery said.
He mentioned a remodel done at MarketPlace Foods in 1998 went through two holiday seasons before it was complete, and wasn't any fun to deal with. That's something they hope to avoid by doing this latest remodeling project in phases.
Phase one will remodel the produce department. The cutting station will be relocated in a back room and new cases will be ordered. A 48-foot, five-deck case will be added to produce, and the look will change even more with the addition of European tables.
Produce isn't the only department getting an upgrade in phase one, which will also introduce some new color schemes.
"We're adding some additional cases to the meat department, so we can increase their selection on meat," Towery said. "They're known for their meats so we're going to make it even larger."
Some frozen cases will also be added to the meat department.
For phase two, Towery said they will be completely remodeling the frozen food and dairy sections. A floral department will also be reintroduced to all three Miracle Mart locations, which is something they have lacked for some time. A fresh coat of paint on the entire building, some new floor tiles in areas that need them and a final cleanup will finish the project.
"Make it more convenient and a nicer place for people," Towery said. "Bring it up to the expectation level they have for MarketPlace Foods."
For customers who might worry a favorite item or brand will be dropped once the change is made, they can actually expect the opposite to happen.
"As we're using bulk warehouses they'll see an influx of some new products that aren't available to the Miracle Marts because we can get them from Super, but they'll still be mainly supplied by Nash Finch because we want to protect this warehouse because it employs quite a few people," Towery said.
The main reason for the merger is so they can stay competitive with other stores that sell groceries such as Wal-Mart, Target and even Menards, Towery said. Because MarketPlace Foods and Miracle Mart are under one umbrella, they can leverage that added buying power into lowering costs for themselves and their customers.
"We started doing some buying together, which allows us to buy in larger quantities, more mass, it gets us a lower cost," Towery said.
"They'll (customers) definitely see lower prices on the ads," he added.
Along with being good for customers, Towery said the merger will also be good for the community. MarketPlace Foods and Miracle Mart have always done their own community involvement projects in the past, but now all those projects will take place at all four Minot stores, meaning more exposure to the public.
"Like they did Horn of Plenty, we do Stuff-A-Truck, well we're both going to do both of them now," Towery said. "We do Toys for Tots, they're going to do Toys for Tots with us."
"We're not dropping any of them, we're just enhancing all of them," he added. "So it should be good for the community."
An important part of this transition will be the employees. Towery said store meetings were held to inform all the employees about what exactly would be happening and allow them to ask any questions they had. Rumors of this store or that being sold or closed had been making the rounds, and Towery said it was important to let everyone know that none of the stores would be shut down or sold off.
Towery said once they were able to let the employees know exactly what was going on and what would be happening in the future, everyone was much more willing to embrace the changes ahead.
"They were actually surprised. We were extremely open about that changes that were going to be going on, we talked about the standards and expectations we want to get to," he said. "They were very excited."
Towery said with around 1,000 years of combined experience just between the various management teams, a flood of ideas has poured in on how to make all the MarketPlace Foods locations better. An employee at one of the meetings even managed to change Towery's mind about a decision that will affect all four stores.
A Miracle Mart employee asked Towery if they would be switching to the Hippo bags MarketPlace Foods uses because they are much stronger and more durable than Miracle Mart's bags. Towery had been thinking about dumping the Hippo bags and using Miracle Mart bags at all stores because they are cheaper. Once he heard how the employees felt about them, however, he decided to go with the stronger, and more expensive, Hippo bags across all stores.
"It's a small thing but it's convenient for the customer," he said. "They're much stronger, it's just a better bag."
With management and all the employees on the same page, Towery can't wait to begin this new era for MarketPlace Foods. From the customers who will be paying lower prices to the charitable groups that will get donations from even more locations, the merger will be affecting a lot of people in the community in a very positive way.
"I'm excited to get going, the number of employees that have contacted us now that are excited to get going has been good, I'm pretty excited about that. I hate to use the word 'excited' so much but (that's how I feel)," Towery said. "It's going to be good for Minot and it's going to be good for the area."