Brothers close grocer after 55 years, continue meat raffle

Paul, left, and Gordy Fedor
Brothers Paul Fedor, left, and Gordy Fedor look at meat in the refrigerator of Fedor's Market in Mounds View, while preparing a delivery.
Jean Pieri | AP

The front doors to Fedor's Market are closed to shoppers nowadays.

But inside, it's mostly business as usual for meat-cutters Monte Olson and Timothy McCormick, who are staying busy cutting and packaging meat for raffles held at bars, VFW posts, American Legions and Lions Clubs across the Twin Cities.

"Looking at this place from the outside, you wouldn't think anyone would be back here working this hard," Olson said Friday afternoon while packaging filet mignon. "But we are."

In March, brothers Paul and Gordy Fedor shut down the small store they owned and operated in a Mounds View neighborhood since 1961 — a casualty of competition with large chain supermarkets, high operating costs and narrow profit margins, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Age has caught up with them, too.

"The only trouble with this little store is that Gordy and I got old and our equipment got old and our building is old," said Paul Fedor, 72. "It was time to go off in another direction."

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And that means turning all their attention to a niche they've carved out: selling the meat raffle packs.

"Everyone loves a meat raffle," said Gordy Fedor, 77.

Filet mignon
Meat cutter Monte Olson puts labels on filet mignon at Fedor's Market in Mounds View.
Jean Pieri | AP

Over the years, the store was known for its old-fashioned-style meat counter. More recently, Paul Fedor said, about 90 percent of the store's total business came from its meat counter and meat raffle business.

"I think at one time, we had most all of them in town," he said of the meat raffles, which bars hold to raise money for sports groups or other causes. "We've lost a few now and other stores have gone into that stuff, too. But we still do about a hundred of them a week."

The store, with its bare shelves, is now a shell of its former self.

"The whole place is sort of sad now because it looks like hell," Gordy Fedor said as he scanned the produce aisle from behind the empty meat cases.

The brothers don't want sympathy.

"What can you do? It's a chapter to a life," Paul Fedor said. "I'm looking at it as that we had 55 good years here, and we raised families out here. We've had a good run."

Gordy Fedor pointed to a meat counter wall that had taped to it a recent newspaper article about the demise of small-town grocery stores across Minnesota.

"Mounds View isn't a small town anymore, but it used to be when we started," he said. "I could look out a window and see a huge swamp and all the way to Highway 10. There were no houses in the way, no apartment buildings."

The brothers grew up in nearby New Brighton and got into the grocery business at a young age while working for local businessmen Ed and Larry Beisswenger and later Dick Martin and Larry Keefe.

Timothy McCormick, left, and Monte Olson
Meat cutters Timothy McCormick, left, and Monte Olson cut and package meat at Fedor's Market in Mounds View.
Jean Pieri | AP

But in their first attempt to get financing, they were turned down by First State Bank of New Brighton. The bank's president, Harold Pohlad, brother of former Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, wanted the Fedors to go into a different business, Paul Fedor said.

"We got laughed out of the office," he said.

But Martin stepped up and gave them the seed money they needed.

"The original agreement was made up on a piece of notebook paper," Paul Fedor said.

In the early days, they shared the 5,500-square-foot building with a barbershop, the city of Mounds View and the North Suburban Hospital District, which evolved into Unity Hospital in Fridley.

Over the decades, Fedor's Market managed to stave off competition from Lund's in New Brighton and Penny's and later Country Club in the nearby Mounds View Square strip mall, despite those stores being twice as large.

"At one time, in the heydays, we had 32 employees," Gordy Fedor said.

But the store's end is all too common for small grocers that have gone by wayside: It was too hard to compete with the big chains because they are able to buy in bulk to keep prices low, Paul Fedor said.

"People go to places like Walmart and Cub and, although it's so impersonal, I can't blame them," he said. "You have to do that to feed your family and get what you can for a decent price.

"But for us, that meant we either had to change with the times or get into something that we do really well and that is working," he continued. "So we'll see where these meat raffle packs take us."

This is an AP Exchange feature by Nick Ferraro for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.