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Employee-Owned McKay’s Market Maintains Hometown Feel

McKay's Market

McKay’s Market is a small independent grocery chain on the Oregon coast. In business for more than 70 years, the company operates 11 stores and is 100-percent employee owned.

Kevin Murray, chief operations officer, has been with McKay’s for 41 years. He started his grocery career when he was 12, bagging ice and sorting bottles and cans.

Murray said McKay’s at one time had 23 stores, when it operated in the Willamette Valley. It has pulled out of that area and now operates primarily along the southern coast of the state.

In 2022, the company opened a store in the Brookings area and added a new store in Newport in September 2023.

McKay's Market
McKay’s Market CEO Bill Caldwell, right, and COO Kevin Murray, center, present a 40-year pin to meat cutter Brett Glover.

Headquartered in Coos Bay, Murray said the company operates stores from the California border to Lincoln City.

According to the company’s history, Kenneth McKay opened his first store in Coos Bay, quickly building a reputation for excellence and became a trusted household name. He retired in 1987, passing the business to his son, Chuck, who bought out Ken’s partner a few years later to become controlling owner and CEO. 

Under Chuck McKay, the company introduced its employee ownership program in 2007, with 30 percent of the stock sold directly to its employees. He considered employee ownership to be one of the greatest aspects of his legacy, which is still reflected in the company’s tagline: “Oregon Grown, Employee Owned.”

He retired in 2013, and Bill Caldwell took the reins as CEO. The company became 100-percent employee owned in 2016, at which time its board of directors was restructured.

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While the company continues to thrive, it does have challenges. Murray said labor tops that list.

“Labor is still a challenge, to find somebody that actually wants to work and to show up when they’re supposed to be here … It’s very frustrating when you’ve been in the business as long as I have.”

Another challenge is competition, with other retailers coming into the market and “cutting another slice out of the pie,” Murray said. “And fuel bills, transportation [costs] are just a nightmare.”

McKay’s offers its customers online shopping through Rosie and Instacart. It also caters to elderly customers who are unable to get to the store.

“We still have the hometown feel,” Murray said. “We still do cab orders, where elderly customers [who aren’t] computer savvy can call in an order and then a cab will come and pick it up after we shop it.”

Murray said McKay’s is known for its great customer service.

“We always say we’re the friendliest store in town.”

It also is known for its monthly Meat Bonanza sales. During the first two weeks of each month, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the stores offer large packs of meat with a varied selection.

“It’s very competitive pricing, the best pricing around,” Murray said.

The grocer also offers a loyalty rewards program for its customers.

Murray said McKay’s continues to give back to the communities where its stores are located and supports several nonprofits. Proceeds from an annual golf tournament go to local food banks during the holiday season.

Murray enjoys the freedom that working for an independent grocer offers.

“The chain stores are regimented so much that they don’t have a lot of freedom to be creative at store level,” he said. “We allow our managers to think outside the box and do their own displays. There’s a little bit more freedom to be independent in every way.”

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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