“Some of the comments that we’ve heard (were) genuinely so nice and supportive. In the very beginning, we got hugs, high fives, fist pumps, all the things we can’t do now. Even tears, tears of happiness, like, ‘Oh, we’re so happy that you’re here.’”
Corey Christianson, one of the owners of KC’s Country Market grocery store in Greenbush, was describing the response received when he and his wife Ket first assumed ownership.
Around Halloween 2018, the Christiansons, also owners of KC’s Country Market in Badger, officially assumed ownership of KC’s Country Market in Greenbush. Formally, the grocery store was called Squid’s Market, run by long-time family owners and brothers Felix and Mike Korczak. Since the ownership transition, the Christiansons have made renovations and additions to the store.
Some of these changes are complete, some are still in the works and halted to a degree by COVID, and some have yet to take place. Corey talked about them.
First, KC’s Market added on to the backroom of the store, knowing it would likely get an entirely new refrigeration system. It also put new compressors in the backroom, hoping this will partially heat the store.
“We take the heat created by the compressor room, and then that moves through in addition to the propane that we use too,” Corey said. “So we’re not quite finished with that yet. So we hope to have almost 80 percent or more of our own heat produced back there.”
The compressor room that was previously in the store was in the way of the additions they wanted to make, including more storage space and other upgrades. Plus, as Corey explained, the sound coming from this previous compressor room was “deafening” and was possibly causing some electromagnetic interference.
“All of our gadgetry wouldn’t work from the back office to the front, so anything remote,” Corey said. “So we didn’t know that until later and, now that it’s removed, it’s much better.”
The store also upgraded and expanded its refrigeration system, aided by rebates from Ottertail Power Company and a grant through the Good Food Access Program.
“Between the two (funding sources), I mean, you just think it’s a no brainer to really go ahead,” Corey said. “And when you see the energy efficiencies, it (refrigeration system upgrading) reduces the cost of electricity on a month to month basis.”
KC’s Country Market in Greenbush also has added customer store space, replacing the three-bedroom apartment in the back of the store with customer space that now includes produce, deli, meat products in this new refrigeration.
“We didn’t see us utilizing the apartment, although it was an idea that had crossed our mind to maybe homestead or to rent it out,” Corey said. “But we figured that the retail space was probably needed in a town of this size as well.”
Its “bright shining star,” as Corey pointed out, is its refrigeration upgrade and expansion, an addition he considered worth it, especially during the time of COVID.
“We’ve seen produce expand during this COVID time, too. So I think people are intentionally eating more consciously healthy and it’s the same too over at the Badger store,” Corey said. “And (with) our curbsides (delivery), a lot of people get produce, so that in itself has been a big thing that we couldn’t have supplied maybe as much to that extent (before the expanded refrigeration).”
Corey explained how it still has more room for its produce section within this refrigeration expansion, giving the store the capability to grow this section “quite a lot.”
KC’s Market in Greenbush also has made some shelving upgrades, but look to make more. Currently, it has shelving sitting in the store that has yet to be installed, due to this shelving missing some parts.
These parts are hard to get, even more difficult due to shipping issues and warehouses not being open from people being in quarantine during this COVID pandemic. He added how this unfinished shelving should have been done eight to ten months prior. When it does happen, Corey anticipates hundreds of additional feet in shelving.
It also has a deli cooler that has to be piped in, but it wants to get all its shelving built first, so it knows exactly where the cooler will go.
“Our HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) guy, who does the refrigeration as well, is too busy. And we all just kind of distance a little bit more, so everything is way delayed,” Corey said. “A lot of our… contractors like to work maybe on their own terms, maybe before or after we close, not just to stay away from the customers and while they’re shopping around, but just to keep the distance too.”
As for other renovations and upgrades, the store has also installed new freezers, new flooring and new check-out counter stations, ones with customer credit card readers, capable of Apple Pay. Out of all the improvements, Corey said the one people have mentioned most has been the flooring.
“The eyes just kind of seemed to get wider and wider as people saw what we were doing,” Corey said about the improvements, “and how we were tearing down walls and putting in new flooring and all of these things.”
KC’s Market in Greenbush is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm.
To see the complete story, read the December 2 issue of The Tribune in print or online.