Wahpeton grocery store workers are now store ownersWAHPETON, N.D. (AP) — Employees of a Wahpeton grocery store have gone from working at the store to owning it.
WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) — Employees of a Wahpeton grocery store have gone from working at the store to owning it.
Joe Lueken, the longtime owner of the Wahpeton Econofoods, decided to sell the store to his workers through an employee stock ownership program. The ownership shifted to the workers Sunday.
Luken — who also sold his two grocery stores in Bemidji, Minn., to employees at those locations — said this was his way of thanking his employees for helping make his 46 years in business a success.
"They're very good employees. I'm proud of all of them," Lueken told the Forum newspaper.
Janea Ries, a customer service manager with the Wahpeton store, said she and her co-workers are "taking on something great."
"I think we'll step it up even more, taking pride in what we have," she said.
Under the employee stock ownership program, the approximately 400 workers who took ownership of the stores Sunday will pay for stocks out of store profits over the course of several years. To participate, employees must be 21, work an average of at least 1,000 hours a year and have worked for the company for a year or more.
Lueken is 70 and ready to retire. He said he weighed his options and decided that selling to employees was "the right thing to do."