November 26, 2012

Local heroes

Star Tribune, MN - Joe Lueken spent 46 years becoming a successful grocer and community benefactor. Finally, at 70, he's ready to sell the business, travel the world with his wife, Janice, and reap some of what they've sown.

On Jan. 1, Lueken's Village Foods, with two supermarkets in Bemidji and another in Wahpeton, N.D., will begin transferring ownership to its approximately 400 employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Program.

Lueken said he had multiple offers to sell to large independent chains and might have gotten more money that way. But he and his family believe that selling to workers will be better for them, the business and this north-central Minnesota city of 13,000 people.

"My employees are largely responsible for any success I've had, and they deserve to get some of the benefits of that," Lueken said earlier this week. "You can't always take. You also have to give back."

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