Red’s Hometown Market IGA also features craft brewery, barbecue eatery and coffee shop
Patrick Longmire, owner of Red’s Hometown Market IGA in Spring Grove, Minnesota, grew up in the grocery business.
His parents purchased a small grocery store and bar in 1953 in St. Joseph, Wisconsin. They sold that business in 1963, then opened a new store in 1966 just down the street from their previous location. In 1973, they sold the store and got out of the business for a while, Longmire said. During that time, he finished high school and joined the military.
Following his discharge in August 1979, he and his mother bought the store his parents had built in the ‘60s. In 1989, they entered the Minnesota market with the purchase of a store in Spring Grove, which has a population of about 1,350. In 2000, Longmire said they built a new, larger store in town and, through a new distributor, were able to rejoin IGA.
According to Longmire, who has seen a lot in the industry over the years, the impact of COVID-19 is still being felt today.
“COVID was just a nightmare for everybody,” he said. “It was stressful for everybody.”
While COVID impacted labor across the industry, Longmire doesn’t believe the pandemic is to blame for all of the current labor woes. He said the attitude of today’s workers has changed.
“I think it’s just the mentality that we have out there today with people,” he said, adding that work doesn’t seem like it’s that important now.
“When I grew up, it was important. It was a pretty big thing. Now, people can bounce around so easy. They don’t care. They’ll come in and tell you everything that they’re going to do, and then two weeks later, they just up and quit. That’s just the way it is.”
As for inflation, Longmire noted “there is value out there” if consumers look for it. If a person prepares meals at home, instead of having someone prepare it for them, “it’s going to be a lot cheaper.”
Red’s offers curbside pickup. While online shopping was popular at the store when COVID first hit, Longmire said “it is not as big a deal” now. Customers email their lists through the store’s website. They have about a dozen online orders per week as opposed to the 50-60 orders per day they were receiving.
Red’s has grown over the years and today features an in-store restaurant, Fat Pat’s BBQ, which was started after Longmire’s son, Patrick Jr., moved back to Spring Grove from Texas in 2017.
The store also features a coffee shop and a craft brewery in the back, which his son started. Due to its success, the brewery will be moving into a bigger space at the end of the summer.
Longmire said business today is good. “I think there’s a place for grocery stores in small towns. Everybody talks about online shopping and what it is today, but I think we’re very important.”
He is in the process of installing self-checkout in the store, which is probably the biggest thing for 2023. “For a small town like us to be putting in the self-checkout lane, it’s kind of a big thing, kind of a big deal.”
Red’s also is adding a liquor store. “We’re changing things around and are able to work within the building.”
Red’s IGA is very much a part of the Spring Grove community. When a recent fire destroyed the hardware store and the six apartments above it, the grocer donated gift cards and more to the people who lost their homes.
The store also has hosted fundraising dinners prepared in its deli, with local organizations such as booster clubs coming in to serve the meals. At a cost of $10 per meal, the organization would receive $4 per meal.
“If we would do 250 meals, they would get $1,000. It was a pretty easy two to three hours of work for them, and they made money for their organization,” said Longmire, adding that’s just one example of the store’s community involvement.
One of the things Longmire said he most enjoys about being an independent grocer is “creating something new.”
“We created the brewery, we created the barbecue place, we created a coffee shop, we created our take-and-bake pizza. From start to finish, it’s the planning and organizing and how to build it to make it successful. That’s probably the most enjoyable – creating new niches where customers can only get that at your place.”
Red’s is by far the best and most complete grocery store in the area. And the quality of meats and produce are stellar!