Home » MarketPlace Foods Keeps Focus On Associates, Their Resilience

MarketPlace Foods Keeps Focus On Associates, Their Resilience

MarketPlace Foods

Last updated on February 5th, 2021 at 09:28 am

Employee owned as of Jan. 1, company celebrating 80th anniversary

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

Founded in 1940 in Edinburgh, North Dakota, MarketPlace Foods just celebrated its 80th anniversary. And the company is entering 2021 with strong grocery business on its side.

MarketPlace Foods
Randy Yaeger

“The sales that we’ve had since the pandemic started are amazing – like it has been for virtually all grocers across the country,” said Randy Yaeger, VP of retail operations for MarketPlace Foods.

The company employs 800 people, operating 10 grocery stores, five liquor stores and three gas stations. Not only have sales been amazing, but so has customer feedback – even when protocol was different or items were out of stock.

“We were the first ones to make it mandatory for our staffs to wear masks and gloves, prior to any mandates coming from the state,” Yaeger said. “The comments from our customers during this whole time was how safe they felt when they were in our stores, because of the fact that we, as employees, were all wearing masks and gloves.

“We have an outside service that comes throughout the week and sanitizes everything like that…we continue to do that.

“We looked for alternative supply. We’ve had some success with that, but even the secondary suppliers ran out of product, and our shelves were empty at times. But customers were very understanding. We had signs explaining that vendors are temporarily out of this product.

“We have a lot of customers that said they switched…to our store because of that. We continue to have a larger customer base because of that. They’ve learned to like our stores.”

MarketPlace Foods

But impressing customers, new and old, wouldn’t have been possible without “the resilience of our associates,” said Yaeger, which has made him the proudest.

“Their dedication and their willingness to put themselves in front of all these people that were coming to the stores…if they saw a customer, they politely said, ‘Can I get you a mask?’” Yaeger said.

“Our home shopping literally went through the roof in North Dakota because a lot of customers didn’t want to come to the store and shop…we had six and eight people picking orders. When the grocery business was as busy as it was, to pull people out of the check stand and to walk through the store picking orders – and doing it where the customers would call and say, ‘Gosh, my order was absolutely perfect.’

“The system that we’re on requires us to call a customer if we’re out of a product and say, ‘We don’t have this product. But I’m looking at the shelf, and we have these three items that are very similar. Would you like one of them?’ Customers really appreciate that, they’re able to get alternative suggested items. The number of comments that come back from customers through the online survey is just amazing.”

In addition to associates, the North Dakota Grocers Association helped keep MarketPlace Foods successful.

“We got emails weekly it seemed [from the association] with something that was going on at state legislature. Things for small businesses, whether it was PPE, making sure that we had gotten the notification on things that we may have qualified for,” Yaeger said.

“There are a number of things that North Dakota did to reimburse small businesses for the money that they spent during the pandemic. They made sure that we were taking advantage of anything that we were able to. If they had alternative supply for masks or hand sanitizer, or things like that, they kept us in the know. North Dakota Grocers did a very good job for us.”

Looking to this year, Yaeger said MarketPlace will continue to focus on doing good by the associates.

“On January 1st, we became employee owned. Our owners are in their early 70s, and family members aren’t involved for the most part to take over the business…” he said. “For 2021 and beyond…even though we always make good decisions for the business, we have to look out for our associates because they are owners of the business.”

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