Grocery store has been providing fresh food, quality service in Pelican Rapids for 40+ years
By Carol Stender
Larry’s Super Market has been a Pelican Rapids business mainstay for more than 40 years, meeting the grocery needs of the town’s diverse community.
Recently third generation owners Brittany and Mark Dokken completed a store improvement project which offers some new products, greater business efficiencies and enhances the shopping experience.
Some of the upgrades are more obvious than others, Brittany said. It’s still the same building with great bones while the added features give it a fresh appeal.
The most noticeable improvement is the actual store entrance. A wooden entry protects the north facing front door area from rain and, in winter, ice. The wood structure with attractive lighting is homey and a welcoming way to enter the store.
Once inside the store, customers will note the Deli area with new cabinets made by a local carpenter plus new countertop.
Before construction began, they needed a new fryer to prepare chicken and found Cooper’s Express. The fried chicken breading isn’t spicy, but it has great flavor and it also keeps the chicken moist, Brittany said.
The deli menu also includes chicken strips, popper bowls and a chicken sandwich. A new line of mac and cheese has also been added.
New refrigerated cases and freezers were added in the frozen food and meat departments.
Specialty items are displayed in a separate case in the meat department which can include half hams or pulled pork.
Not as noticeable to the public are the new misters installed in the produce section. But some of the produce products are definitely of note. Larry’s has teamed up with Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s hydroponic grow shed to offer locally grown lettuce year-round.
The lettuce has a root ball on the end which keeps the heads fresher for longer.
Larry’s will continue to work with local growers offering seasonal produce such as onions, squash, pumpkins, organic brown eggs and dill.
And USDA-inspected bison - featuring ground bison and steaks - from local bison producer Rolling R Ranch, is also offered in the meat section.
The store continues to offer grocery items for the diverse community including one aisle devoted to Hispanic foods. As Pelican Rapids has grown culturally, the store has strived to include other ethnic foods for Croatian and Somalian residents.
Larry’s Super Market has grown from the original vision for the business by its founder, Larry Fix.
Originally, Larry worked at the Morrell plant in Sioux Falls, SD at age 16, but when he returned home from his Navy tour of service in 1948, he didn’t have a job.
He was successful in sales and, for a period of time, seemed to sell just about everything from toilet bowl deodorizers to light bulbs. But he was traveling a lot and, as a family man, he wanted something more stable.
His mother was working at a grocery store in Adrian, Minnesota, and got Larry a job. The rest, as they say, is history. He had store management positions in Adrian and Lake Andes, SD, but they paid little more than $50 a week.
He decided to buy his own store and purchased one in Wadena in 1967. His goal was for all his children to be involved in the grocery business. All of them did with three remaining in the grocery business.
As Larry built up his first store, he developed a relationship with Wadena-based Mason Brothers Wholesale, a business arrangement that continues with the Battle Lake and Pelican stores.
He drove through the area, looking for new store opportunities when he came to Pelican Rapids. The town’s existing three grocery stores didn’t deter him from starting a store. Those stores were all located downtown where parking was limited.
Larry purchased a lot on Pelican Rapids’ south end along Highway 59. The lot would offer plenty of parking, but it was a low lying property and he brought in fill to level the property.
He sold the store to his daughter and son-in-law, Cyndy and Phil Stotesbery. Both had been teachers in Wadena at the time.
The store in Pelican Rapids continued to grow, but the building could not have an addition due an area of the original fill, which was sinking.
They sold the building itself for $1 and built a new structure. Brittany recalled moving groceries, by grocery cart, from the old building to the new. The old building was then deconstructed and put back together, bolt by bolt, in Barnesville where it is now used as a meat locker.
As they worked with customers from the area, they also had brushes with some Minnesota notables.
Dick Bremer, Minnesota Twins announcer, often visited his mother who lived in a Pelican Rapids high rise, Cyndy said. He was bringing a decorated cake to her, but Dick had an issue. Someone had placed something on top of the cake and it had a hole and missing frosting. He brought it to Larry’s Super Market where the bakery filled the hole and fixed the messed up writing.
Just like Cyndy, Brittany has grown up with the grocery business. She recalls how she’d get questions from cashiers on how to use the tills. She helped close the store when her parents would go on vacations and she worked at the store during her breaks from college.
Brittany and Mark married in 2009 and lived in Fargo, ND until 2012 when they decided to move to Pelican Rapids. The two were at crossroads in their jobs. Mark saw changes to his work as an auto claims adjuster and Brittany found her wages from her job were stretched by
daycare costs for their children.
“We decided we would come here,” she said. “The house we bought was pure luck like it was meant to be. We had a plan, we just didn’t think it would come that fast.”
Brittany and Mark purchased the business Jan. 1, 2020. Then COVID-19 and quarantines hit.
The grocery store was, like other grocery stores, considered an essential business. Together they worked with their employees to order and stock shelves.
Mark kept a diary during that time. The local newspaper, The Press, reprinted his notes. It was a popular piece and details what the quarantine was like for the essential business.
One of the first entries published detailed Mark’s March 11, 2020 events: “In the morning, I was texting with my father-in-law, Phil Stotesbery about what we are hearing in other markets. He informed me of what was going on at the grocery stores/big box stores in the Mesa, Arizona area. This gave me foresight of what was to come. I was aware of consumer reaction in the larger markets in the MN/ND/SD area as well.”
He ordered “heavy” for his trucks, similar to his July 4th orders, which is the store’s busiest time of year. That order included three pallets of toilet paper.
“I stayed at work after closing and restocked the toilet paper. Nearly all of it went out. This means we sold about three pallets of TP on Wednesday/ Thursday.”
A few days later, after a busy day, he went home to celebrate his son’s birthday. Back at the store, eggs and all-purpose flour sold out within a few hours. Gone also was the bread. He sent a photo of the empty shelves to his Village Hearth rep who drove to Pelican Rapids to get bread on the shelves.
The family ate supper that night in the store Deli when he asked Brittany to help stock the toilet paper. She did and soon their sons came to help. He taught them to read tags and UPC numbers and how to face the products.
“It was a good memory and stress reliever to have our family together, working together,” he wrote.
Larry’s Super Market is located 1007 S Broadway, in Pelican Rapids. Their phone number is (218) 863-5750. The store is open Monday-Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
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