Tracy Frank, Published October 15 2013
Her Voice: Fourth generation grocer says business ‘gets in your blood’
HAZEN, N.D. – Kari Olson tried leaving the grocery industry once, but it didn’t stick.
Olson, 50, of Hazen started working in her father’s grocery store when she was in middle school. With the exception of the meat department, she’s learned every other job in the place.
For the past 16 years she and her younger brother, Dalles Krause Jr. have owned and expanded Krause’s Market, and now the North Dakota Grocers Association has honored them for their efforts by naming them Grocers of the Year.
“It was awesome to be recognized by our peers,” Olson said.
The siblings are fourth generation grocers and bought the store in 1997 from their father, Dalles Krause Sr. Nine years later, they bought the Super Valu store in Garrison and two years after that, they purchased Washburn Super Valu and turned them both into Krause’s Market stores.
Olson attributes their winning Grocer of the Year to their business’ growth.
In 2010, they built a new 30,000-square-foot store in Hazen, which is about 70 miles northwest of Bismarck. And last year, they added 7,000 square feet to the Garrison store.
“Part of it is we reinvest in our business and our people,” she said. “Our people run good operations. They care about their customers.”
Olson said their dad was a good teacher, and the most important lesson she learned from him was to “treat your employees and your customers right.” Some employees have worked for Krause’s Market for more than 30 years, she said.
That emphasis on customer service helps the small-town stores stay competitive with big-box retailers, Olson said.
The stores also set themselves apart by making their own beef sticks, summer sausage and old-fashioned sausage in an onsite smoke house. They also sell locally grown produce and offer unique items like homemade kuchen and other ethnic German fare.
But they still have to stay competitively priced and work hard to do so, she said.
The grocery stores are an important part of the communities in which they’re located, and Olson said they do what they can to give back by donating to local organizations.
“If you want the community to support you, you support the community,” she said.
Olson has seen a lot of changes over the years. She worked with her dad when he first put in scanners. The stores also offer a lot more than they used to. There’s a bank in the Hazen store, and the deli offers evening meals, like prime rib.
“Hazen is short of restaurants, so we try to help fill that niche if people don’t want to cook,” she said.
While Olson worked in a bank for a little while, she said the grocery business “gets in your blood.”
“It’s definitely a people business. You have to like people,” she said. “Honestly, the people in grocery industry are some of the nicest people. The support you get from that community is amazing.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526