Oct 162012
 

Author: John Sheesley

Two bicyclists ride by Beavers Supermarket on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Shields Street. Photo by John Sheesley.

Don Beaver opened a small, locally-owned grocery store called Beavers Supermarket in Fairmont, Nebraska in 1946. His son, Doug, began working there before and after school in 1960 when he was just 8 years old.

“I remember the railroad bums would come by on the railroad, and I would have to go down in the basement and help work with them and that always kind of scared me; I was just a little kid. We had to sack our own potatoes and handle our own eggs and all that,” Doug Beaver said.

Fifteen years later, Doug and his wife Cheryl would open their own Beavers Supermarket in Grand Junction in 1975. Soon after, however, Doug had an opportunity to buy a store in Fort Collins and moved to their present location on the northwest corner of Mountain Avenue and Shields Street in 1976.

“The neighborhood, mostly Mountain [Avenue] here, has changed — the area has upgraded to a higher class of people, you might say, over the years,” Beaver said. “The general store has stayed the same. As far as some of the products we carry, we’ve changed to carry more of the higher end of things. Organic is a bigger deal now, of course that wasn’t even around back then.”

According to Beaver, the most difficult thing about running his supermarket for the last 36 years has been competing with the large supermarket chains.

The fresh produce counter at Beavers Supermarket. Photo by John Sheesley

The fresh produce counter at Beavers Supermarket. Photo by John Sheesley.

“I’m competing with a store that’s how many times bigger than me and I just can’t carry everything they can,” Beaver said. “I just can’t carry everything they do, so people have to go other places at times for certain things; nothing I can do about that.”

Beaver has been creative about managing expenses and space to keep his prices low enough to attract savvy shoppers away from the large chain grocery stores, while providing a large selection of goods.

“Our warehouse is a co-op, so its owner owned, and we’re actually one of the owners,” Beaver said. “They’re big, they do over $1 billion worth a year in sales and they’re in a lot of states so we’re with a big supplier, as big as [the chain stores] are in terms of actual warehouse space. Customers can get most anything they want and be in and out fast.”

He counts on a loyal customer base coupled with neighborly service to keep Beavers Supermarket in business.

“There are some [customers] that are five generations, and have been coming here as they grew up,” Beaver said. “We’re local; I think a lot of people like that — the atmosphere of the smaller store, a lot of people like that. We have, counting [Cheryl and I], 15 employees right now.”

Former CSU student Brenton Noon at the Beavers Supermarket meat counter. Photo by John Sheesley.

Former CSU student Brenton Noon at  Beavers Supermarket’s meat counter. Photo by John Sheesley.

Former CSU student Brenton Noon has been an employee of Beavers Supermarket for seven years now.

“It was my part-time college job,” Noon said. “We try to get some students in here, as far as the employees go. Every now-and-then, we’ll cycle some in and out; it’s been good work for me, and students, that’s pretty much a huge thing for us. We get a lot busier when school get back in session, no doubt about it.”

Noon works the meat counter, calling regular shoppers by name and helping to find the perfect cut of meat. The supermarket employs a full time butcher and carries USDA choice cuts and 10 flavors of their very own homemade sausage.

“Our meat here, and the fact that we make all of our sausage here, and things like that, that helps give us a unique edge, and that’s the sort of special thing; local products and a local store — people want to support that.” Noon said. “It’s definitely that kind of community store, the kind of a place where a lot of the customers that come here, come here five times a day. This is their cupboard and their refrigerator; they just come and get what they need, then go home and come back later on in the day.”

A sign hanging in Beavers Supermarket. Photo by John Sheesley.

A sign hanging in Beavers Supermarket. Photo by John Sheesley.

According to Beaver, the most rewarding part about owning his supermarket has been the people he has gotten to know over the years.

“The customers — working with them and the employees both — you get to know them, you’ve been around for years and you know them by name. It’s home, they’re like family,” Beaver said.

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