Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation: The Mackenthun’s Legacy

Made from Scratch

Offering private brands and signature products sets Mackenthun’s apart from the big-box grocery stores. Aside from specially made sausages, the store makes many different products, such as specially cured bacon, gourmet baked beans, chicken salad and chunky cinnamon bread, which like all the baked goods, is made from scratch.

“The more other stores continue buying pre-mixes and getting things out quickly, we’ve been going back to making from scratch – the way grandma used to make it,” Kim tells RM.

In 2003, Mackenthun’s built a 50,000-square-foot store on the outskirts of Waconia, Minn. A few years later in 2008, the store expanded further, adding 12,500 square feet and completely remodeling.

Kim states, “I went along with my dad to the store when he worked. Back in the day, I’d be bagging potatoes and separating pop bottles.”  Now Kim’s children, Jaime Mackenthun and Jessa Theis, are part-owners. “We all just really love the business,” Jessa says.

Jaime agrees, adding, “My daughter comes in every Sunday with me and helps in the Service Center, and she’s eight years old. She even checks some customers out – with help, of course.”

When Jessa and Jaime graduated high school, their father encouraged them to get degrees to ensure they truly wanted to work in the store. Jessa got her degree in human resources and Jaime graduated with a marketing degree, both returned to the family business and have worked in just about every area of the store. Now, Jaime is the director of operations and Jessa, the director of marketing.

This is true of the store’s employees as well. One Mackenthun’s employee, Charlie Schmakle, recently turned 80. He started working for Kim’s grandfather as a meat cutter before Kim was even born, while other workers have been there long before Jessa and Jaime were born.

“All the employees in the store are pretty much extended family,” Jaime says. “We empower our managers and people under our managers to make their own decisions so everyone is working together as a team. Everyone feels like they have a chance to grow.”

Mackenthun’s offers extensive cross-training so that all employees have a chance to learn and try something new. If a cashier wants to become a cake decorator, for instance, that employee can start by learning how to decorate cupcakes.

All employees are required to complete two online classes in any subject each year and the classes do not need to pertain to the grocery business. Many employees enjoy it so much that they take eight to 10 classes a year on their own.

The Mackenthuns strongly believe in supporting not only their family of employees, but also the local community. In 2014, Kim was inducted into the Minnesota Grocers Association Hall of Fame for his outstanding service to the community and the food industry. Jaime and Jessa are both active board members of the Minnesota Grocers Association.

Mackenthun’s recently held a golf tournament that raised more than $15,000 for The Waconia Food Shelf. And during their annual fall “Stuff a Truck” program in 2014, the store raised over 20,000 pounds of food for three local food shelves.  Since 2003, their Stuff a Truck program has collected over 235,000 pounds.

The business also utilizes many locally, homegrown produce suppliers, partnering with 40 different local farmers and earning it the Minnesota Grown Retailer of the Year award for the fourth consecutive year – selected by the MN Department of Agriculture.

Early Adopters

Mackenthun’s has always endeavored to stay ahead of the pack. It was on the “bleeding”-edge of online shopping, beginning an online grocery-delivery service in 1995 that lasted five years. Jessa laments that they were “too ahead of the curve and technology wasn’t as advanced enough for what [they] wanted to provide.”

But Mackenthun’s is planning to return to full online shopping in the fall. Currently, customers can place a bakery order on an iPad in store or order baked goods and holiday dinners online to pick up in store.

The store’s other new focus is on health and wellness. It offers new items for customers with dietary restrictions and has one of the largest selections of gluten-free items in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Mackenthun’s is also hiring an in-store dietician. Kim adds, “We just want to differentiate ourselves enough from the big-box stores that people will always have a need for a store like ours.”