Founded in 1920, Mason Brothers is a family owned, full-line wholesale grocery distributor. Today, the company is a supplier of goods and services to stores in six states, having built a strong reputation based on customer service and satisfaction.
“Our marketshare continues to grow,” co-owner Ric Harrison says. “We have expanded to serve a base of more than 400 stores within an eight-hour drive of our headquarters.”
Mason Brothers is committed to helping its customers succeed. Working with independent retailers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, Mason Brothers offers an extensive product line of more than 20,900 SKUs at competitive pricing, with cross-docking capabilities of another 20,000.
In addition, the company strives to provide reliable on-time deliveries and offers an experienced retail in-store support team. Mason Brothers also has a staff of advertising, buying and merchandising experts who work to ensure that its retailers are offered the best deals possible.
As part of its effort to provide the best possible service to customers, Mason Brothers has stretched beyond its roots as a traditional full-line wholesaler. The company has created what it calls its Smart Grocer program, which is aimed at the convenience sector and providing customers with the ability to offer high-quality perishables. These programs can help retailers increase customer counts and take their stores to the next level.
“We are active in many tourist and rural areas, and each has its different set of characteristics and challenges,” Harrison says. “But in all market areas, our growth is coming through our perishable and full line offerings.”
Abby’s Bakery, a division of Mason Brothers, offers more than 150 baked-from-scratch sweets, cookies, breads and cakes, baked on a daily basis, and delivered next day. The Sunnybrook Bread program offers commercial-grade bread and buns with a minimum 15-day shelf life at a store cost of 99 cents.
Beyond that, Mason Brothers offers top-quality Heartland Farms Beef and Excel Pork, sold by the piece or by the case. It also offers case-ready fresh beef and pork, which features extended shelf life (14 to 28 days), from its USDA inspected, state-of-the-art facility. A two-day lead time is all that is required for custom cut special orders. In addition, it provides customers with fresh milk and dairy offerings, in nine label options, from Cass Clay, Kemps, Land O’Lakes and Schroeder Dairy.
Other offerings include top-quality produce through Russ Davis Wholesale, sold in manageable quantities. For example, Mason Brothers can provide retailers with the Crazy Fresh case-ready line of salads and fruits.
The company also provides traditional convenience store products including everything from strong vendor-supported candy, snack and tobacco lines, deli and coffee programs, general merchandise and HBC to seasonal and novelty ice cream programs. Mason Brothers aims to provide customers with the best items available in many categories, including more than 1,000 Hy-Top and other private-label items.
At every stage, Mason Brothers works to help its retailers increase their sales and profits. The company holds multiple sell events each year so stores can see what’s new and have direct contact with manufacturer representatives. It also holds retail meetings and gathers feedback annually. E-mail notifications are sent out weekly, featuring the latest industry news, booking opportunities, information on commodity markets and new items.
“We listen to the needs of our customers, because they are all competing with big-box and alternative grocery stores,” Harrison says. “We stay on top of what is trending, so our retailers have the product their customers are looking for.”
The company works to make sure its trucks are on time, with its own fleet and employing its own drivers. Its triple-temp and temperature-monitored trucks and trailers help make sure that product arrives in good condition.
“Our new upgraded routing software will eventually allow retailers to check on the status of a load via the web,” Harrison says. “It will let them know how things are running and can give them estimated arrival times. Above all, we work hard to provide retailers with on-time deliveries as well as consistency, as the weather here can be unpredictable in the winter months.”
Other parts of its overall value proposition include its staff of customer service personnel available via a toll-free number. This team ensures that issues are handled and questions are answered in a timely manner. The company provides retailers with direct accesses to buyers, which can help stores find what they are looking for. In addition, Mason Brothers’ inhouse graphics department can assist with signage and point-of-sale needs.
The company employs in-house professionals that can provide planning, blueprints and equipment quotes. Its experienced retail counselors and department merchandisers can help retailers make sure their stores are eye catching for all the right reasons. Altogether, Mason Brothers has a staff of more than 275 employees, boasting a wide variety of skills that can be essential to retail success.
Mason Brothers also just completed an 18-month expansion of its bakery, doubling in size. The company is investing in new equipment throughout its facility, as well as in back-office technology to improve efficiency. Although challenged to find drivers, Mason Brothers is confident that it can continue to help retailers succeed for years to come.
“We believe we are the best supplier for strong independents because of our blend of customer service, ads, competitively priced products and perishables,” Harrison says. “We strive to build our brand, one transaction at a time.”