Gary's Super Foods
In an age of big-box chain stores and super-center grocers, it's rare that a shopper can say they know the name of their butcher. Gary's Super Foods in North Platte is the exception.
At Gary's, shoppers can not only purchase a six-pack of Gary's Homemade Brats--they can meet Gary Suhr, the man who came up with the recipe.
The owner of a grocery store in Hershey, Nebraska since 1995, Suhr saw an opportunity in North Platte and came to the Nebraska Business Development Center for help. He met with North Platte Director Jason Tuller about creating a business plan.
"Jason was very good to us," Suhr says. "I went to him knowing very little about the process and he took me through all the steps of everything we needed to do to secure the funding. He helped prepare all the paperwork and supported us all the way. He did a fabulous job."
Suhr and his wife, Christina, contributed $200,000 of their own money toward the new grocery store, situated in the same building that housed a True Value Super Center until it closed in 2005. Along with a bank loan, the Suhrs secured a $300,000 grant from the Quality Growth Fund and a Community Development Block Grant loan of $113,000. They cut the ribbon and opened Gary's Super Foods in February 2009.
The only locally-owned supermarket in North Platte, Gary's Super Foods is a full-line grocery store with a bakery, a full-service meat department and produce department. It features Shurfine and Shurfresh products, brands that left the North Platte market when True Value went out of business.
The building has 23,000 square feet of space, with 18,000 devoted to sales. The business employs 53 people, Suhr says.
"We started off with a bang and thankfully it hasn't let up since," he says. "We stress the high quality of our produce, our custom meats and our customer service. I can't tell you how important personal service is to finding and keeping customers."
Suhr wanted to operate the new grocery store with greater energy efficiency, so he accessed the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). With a loan guarantee from the USDA Rural Development office, Suhr was able to upgrade the building with a reclaim system that captures heat from the refrigeration compressors and uses it to heat the store. He also installed energy efficient T-12 lighting.
Suhr says the investments have resulted in impressive savings. "The utility bills are one-half of the costs of the store in Hershey, where there's less than half the space," he says.
Innovations that ensure the customers at Gary's Super Foods find a warm and bright welcome for many years to come.