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Jim Hoiness honored as Minnesota’s Outstanding Grocer of the Year

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 16th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Features

Jamie Pfuhl, MGA President; MGA Chair Glen Gust, Glen’s Food Center, Inc. Jim Hoiness, Rush Foods, Inc., Brad Hoiness, Rush Foods, Inc. Photo submitted

There are 1,100 stores affiliated with the Minnesota Grocer’s Association (MGA) with more than 200 retail members and more than 100 distributors and manufacturers. Still, few may have been surprised at Rush Foods, Inc. co-owner Jim Hoiness’ recent award as Minnesota’s Outstanding Grocer of 2013, except perhaps Jim himself. “I think it’s a wonderful honor to receive. It was unexpected,” said Hoiness humbly.

Hoiness, his wife Gayle, and son Brad, a co-owner of Rush Food, Inc., were in Brainerd, Minn. on July 28, at the MGA Annual Conference, to receive the award. “This award is presented annually to a grocer who has successfully developed a company and is respected by industry peers,” said MGA in a press release. “Additionally, the recipient must demonstrate contributions to the industry in the areas of government affairs, community service, and involvement in the MGA.” The event was also attended by over 400 of Hoiness’ peers.

“This award for Jim is well deserved recognition for his contribution to the grocery industry and his dedication to the communities we serve,” says Brad Hoiness. “Serving customers in clean, well maintained stores with friendly employees remains at the heart of Jim’s passion for the business. This award is also shared by more than 100 current associates and hundreds of people who have been employed by Rush Foods, Inc. during Jim’s 40 years in the business.”

Several local business people wrote letters of recommendation for Hoiness’ nomination. The MGA board selected Hoiness from the list of applicants. He was notified about the award in early July, but was sworn to secrecy until the conference.

Hoiness has been a grocery retailer and leader within the community for over 40 years, first beginning his employment with Rushford IGA in 1972. He joined the three other partners as an owner just a year later. Harmony IGA was added to the company in 1975, but Preston wasn’t added until 1999 when Hoiness purchased the business from Vern and Shirley Dahl. Over the years, the three stores have seen substantial upgrades, including major expansion and remodel of all, and relocation of the Rushford store in 1985.

In 1997, Hoiness purchased the company from the remaining partners and added son Brad as a co-owner and as business and operations manager. Six years later, all three stores transitioned away from IGA, changing to wholesaler Nash Finch. A year later the three were renamed to Rushford Foods, Preston Foods, and Harmony Foods.

Continually evolving with technology and energy efficiency, as well as customer service, the stores continued to see upgrades with Hoiness at the helm. In 2004, the Rushford store was remodeled and new energy efficient refrigeration equipment in Frozen, Dairy and Meat departments as well as an additional 1,000 sq. ft. of sales floor to facilitate more space for these departments.

Unexpectedly the flood of August 2007, in Rushford, required an unplanned remodel and further changes to the sales floor as well as new and used equipment to get back into business. Hoiness’ fortitude during this time of struggle was a key point of his recognition by MGA.

“In 2007, a flash flood left up to four feet of water in almost every business in Rushford. Jim was key to the recovery of the business community and provided hope for local residents to rebuild with his resolve and determination to open the store. Jim epitomizes the definition of hometown grocer - a true champion for his community,” said MGA.

Continuing forward with the vision for the stores, the next five years saw further upgrades. In 2008, the Preston Foods interior was completely remodeled, replacing a majority of the refrigeration cases and adding a new compressor system for energy efficiencies. The next year Harmony Foods replaced all the freezer display cases and added an additional 10 to expand selection. “Energy efficiency was again the driver of these changes,” notes Brad Hoiness. “Even though ten doors were added, the amount of electrical load was reduced with the latest motors and LED lighting.”

In 2010 the exterior of Preston Foods was remodeled to remedy roof issues and provided a modern look to the store. Last year, all three stores saw new door systems installed in existing refrigerated cases and upgraded LED lighting to further reduce waste. “This system produced an average of 12 percent savings in electrical usage. The project was enhanced with 13 doors of new equipment in the dairy department, which took advantage of up to 78 percent less energy usage over the cases that were previously in that space. The existing dairy cases were moved to produce which added 30 percent of space to refrigerated produce display,” notes Brad Hoiness.

Not slowing down, Harmony Foods interior was remodeled this year, moving the larger dairy cases to produce for added space and installing an additional 26 refrigerated display cases to replace the existing dairy, smoked meat and deli cases. A new frozen dessert case was added, the deli hot foods area expanded, and all prep spaces were brought up to the latest standards for food safety.

“Hoiness has an entrepreneurial spirit and a positive attitude that exemplifies what it means to be a grocer. He leads by example, demands just as much out of himself as he does of others, and is respected by his peers. Hoiness has a vision for the industry and has been an exceptional supporter of the Minnesota Grocers Association and his hometown organizations. All of these traits and accomplishments exemplify why he is the 2013 MGA Outstanding Grocer.”

Also an outstanding leader in his own community, as well as the communities served by his businesses, Hoiness is quick to note the support he’s received. “With an award or honor of this type, it takes all of the employees and folks that have helped us stay in business and grow our business. That’s what makes a business succeed. This award is a testimony to those folks, too, and they’ve made us successful in these small towns.”

Hoiness sits on various boards within his community, including Ace Communications, Rushford State Bank, Community Economic Development Associates, Grace Place, and First Presbyterian Church. He and wife Gayle live in Rushford and are proudly the parents of four grown sons and nine grandchildren, which are a delight in their lives.

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