Super One Foods founder Jim Miner Sr. dies at 77Jim Miner Sr., who began working in the grocery business at age 10 and was later instrumental in the growth of Miner’s Inc. — owner of Super One Foods — from one store to 31, died Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 77.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Jim Miner Sr., who began working in the grocery business at age 10 and was later instrumental in the growth of Miner’s Inc. — owner of Super One Foods — from one store to 31, died Sunday after a lengthy illness. He was 77.
“I admired the guy immensely,” Miner’s Vice President of Operations Robert Halvorson said Monday. Halvorson began working at Miner’s in 1972, three years before Miner became president of the family-owned business.
“Everyone at Miner’s Inc. is deeply saddened by the death of Jim Sr.,” Halvorson said. “He was loved and respected by all those who knew and worked with him. Jim was an amazing entrepreneur and mentor.”
While he remained Miner’s president until his death, Miner had in recent years left more of the day-to-day operations to five children and others in the company.
“One of Jim’s strengths was to make sure that we had good solid leadership,” Halvorson said. “He did a great job of mentoring his family and the leadership here. We’re in great shape.”
His son Mike, who was a vice president and the face of the family-owned business, died of a heart attack in 2004 at age 46.
His son Jim Jr., also a vice president, issued a statement Monday: “My dad was dedicated to our family, a great teacher, coach and cheerleader. He will be sorrowfully missed.”
Miner’s Inc. has its roots in the 1943 opening of a small Grand Rapids tavern by Miner’s parents, Anton and Ida. The couple began selling milk and bread when they saw a market for the items. They later built the family’s first grocery store, Miner’s Market, along U.S. Highway 2.
In 1954, the store was renamed Piggly Wiggly. The family opened a second store in Virginia in 1963 — which Jim Miner ran for several years before moving to Duluth, where the company had opened a third store in the Woodland neighborhood in 1965. Several more stores followed by 1975, when Tony and Ida Miner retired and Jim Miner became the company’s president.
The next year — seeing the developing trend of bigger, warehouse-type supermarkets — he opened the company’s first such store in Cloquet. In 1977, the store was renamed Super One Foods — the first of many.
The Miner family lived near the Woodland Piggly Wiggly then. And the whole family would regularly work at the store.
“When I started, the other grocery stores weren’t open on Sundays, but our store was and all the family worked here on Sundays, including Jim Sr.,” recalled Mark Knudtson, who has worked in the store’s meat department for 26 years.
They would work the register and stock the shelves, and Miner would carry out groceries, he said.
Miner was a wonderful man and a generous man, Knudtson says.
When Knudtson’s wife was hospitalized before his health insurance kicked in as a new employee, Miner had it started retroactive to the day Knudtson started work so that the hospital charges would be covered. When Knudtson needed a down payment for lake property he wanted to buy but the banks were closed, Miner loaned it to him “without batting an eye.”
“He helped a lot of people in the community,” Knudtson said of Miner. “He did it on his own. He didn’t want people to know about it. He was just a good guy who liked to hunt and fish. He was never pretentious. He was the kind of guy you could sit down with and talk about anything. And he never looked down on anybody.”
Miner’s love for the outdoors led to hunting adventures around the world. And joining him on many of them was Mike Seyfer of Duluth, who is married to one of Miner’s granddaughters.
“His generosity to me fueled my passion for the outdoors,” Seyfer said. “And because of his generosity, I have been able to see and do things that I never would have been able to do without him. And I will have those memories the whole rest of my life.”
The Hermantown-based company now owns 25 Super Ones, three U-Saves and the Woodland Marketplace Foods grocery stores. It has stores in four states, plus its wholesale operation in Duluth. Prevented by Minnesota law from selling spirits in grocery stores, the company recently bought two liquor stores, in Cloquet and Duluth. The company employs more than 2,400 people, and is one of Minnesota’s largest privately held supermarket owners.
Always looking at expanding, in 2006 Miner’s bought seven Jubilee and Festival Foods stores, including five in the Twin Ports, increasing the company’s dominance of the Twin Ports retail grocery market. It bought a competitor in Hurley in 2009 and another in Wadena in 2010, and expanded existing stores across its chain.
“It is a powerful story of how a family-run business can not only compete but thrive against national businesses and food chains,” said David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a testament not only to how he built the business, but how he developed his children into the thoughtful business leaders they became. Our community is fortunate to have had him as a community leader as well as a business leader.”
Miner also helped new inventions and other businesses get off the ground.
After Miner invested in a laser rangefinder for golf that Duluth businessman John Locker had invented, the two formed a company called Entrepreneur Venture Capital in 1992.
“If we found something we liked, we would try to get it to market,” Locker said.
One such investment led to a line of baby products that has been sold at Walmart stores for the past 16 years.
“He was a great mentor and businessman, and I will dearly miss him,” Locker said. “He touched a lot of lives. People don’t know that. They think he was just in the grocery business. He was much more than a grocery man. That’s for sure.”
The Miner family has been very charitable to the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, said Executive Director Shaye Moris.
“He was a very humble man and they are a humble family, and they don’t really talk a lot about those contributions to community,” she said. “But they have been making them for many years.”
In lieu of flowers, Miner’s family asks that memorials be made to the Damiano Center in Duluth, the Michael Miner Endowment Fund at Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, or to the charity of the donor’s choice.