Grocer named state’s best

FAIRMONT – A little known grocery chain in Minnesota got its turn in the spotlight recently when the Minnesota Grocers Association named Ryan Nicholson, of Fareway in Fairmont, the 2013 store manager of the year.

This is the third year the association has given the award, which goes to one small store and a large chain. Nicholson won in the latter category.

“A lot of people don’t know what Fareway is, so that was really cool for us,” said Nicholson, on returning from an award banquet in the Twin Cities. “We have a pretty small footprint in Minnesota right now.”

The company actually has 104 stores – the 105th is opening Wednesday in Sioux Falls. The Fairmont location opened three years ago, and it is the eighth Fareway store at which Nicholson has worked.

The Iowa native started with Fareway in 1990, at age 16. He commuted about eight miles, from the family farm outside the tiny town of Maynard, Iowa, to a store in Oelwein, which is about the size of Fairmont.

“By the time I graduated in 1992, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said.

Reynolds W. Cramer, executive vice president of Fareway stores, wrote in his letter of recommendation to the Minnesota Grocers Association that Nicholson’s “merchandising prowess is considered second to none in our organization.”

Nicholson attributes his success in part to his upbringing, where he learned the importance of hard work and a good attitude – work ethics that Midwesterners, and particularly farmers, are renowned for worldwide.

“A lot of it is my staff: We have a great crew,” he said. “The other 50 percent are the great people I’ve worked for in my career at Fareway.”