Crystal neighborhood grocery store thrives in era of big box stores

The neighborhood grocery store along Douglas Drive and 42nd Avenue in Crystal may have recently changed its name from SuperValu to Almsted's Fresh Market, but the store remains a fixture in the community for its top-notch customer service and local, friendly appeal, amid a sea of bigger box stores.   

"It's kind of like 'Cheers' where you come in, most of our customers know our employees," said store owner Jim Almsted. "I think the fact that we've survived this long and are doing fine is probably a tribute to our employees."

With 50 employees, some like assistant manager Pat Richter who have worked at the store for more than three decades, Almsted has a store full of familiar faces to loyal customers like 87-year-old Mickey Gierke of Crystal. Gierke has been shopping at this store since the 1970s.

"I've been coming here for about 40 years," said Gierke. "I like the people that work here."

It's more than familiar faces that keep this neighborhood grocery store afloat in the competitive grocery business though. Almsted's has made a niche for itself by offering some of the traditional services like a scratch bakery and full-service butcher on site that many larger grocery stores no longer offer.  

"We still have a scratch bakery, we still cut all our own beef and pork and most of the big stores don't anymore," said Almsted. "There are people I know that work for other stores that still come here to buy their meat and bakery and produce."

To reflect its local identity and local ownership, Almsted made a name change to the store this past spring from SuperValu to Almsted's Fresh Market. While the grocery store still uses SuperValu as its wholesaler, Almsted said the name change is appropriate now that SuperValu has become a much larger grocery retailer as well.   

"There's a lot of information that comes out about SuperValu that really doesn't apply to us, so we found that people we're getting confused," said Almsted. 

The new name change is fitting for the long-time Crystal neighborhood store that has a way of remembering its customers' names too. 

Alexandra Renslo reporting

Monday, August 01, 2011


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