New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

MEET GROCERY'S POWER COUPLE

Bruce and Colleen Hagen receive 2019 Grocers of the Year honor from N.D. Grocers Association

 

September 16, 2019

Bruce and Colleen Hagen accepted the Grocer of the Year award at the N.D. Grocers Association Convention in Grand Forks on Monday, Sept. 9.

On Monday, Sept. 9, Bruce and Colleen Hagen both got a big surprise. Colleen may have known that Bruce was to receive the "Grocer of the Year" award from the North Dakota Grocers Association that night (and she had been working hard to both get Bruce to the banquet and organize a congratulatory event at the store), but there was one thing she didn't know -the award was actually presented to the couple, 2019 Grocers of the Year! It was an honor well deserved, as for the past 38 years they've been the power couple in grocery, first owning the New Rockford store then operating it as their own under the Miller's Fresh Foods umbrella.

The Hagen name is synonymous with grocery in the New Rockford area, and it has been so for 67 years. The story begins in 1952, when Bruce's father, Harold (Red) Hagen, opened Red's Super Valu at the corner of Eighth Street and First Avenue North in New Rockford in partnership with Norman Leevers of Devils Lake. The two also bought a store in Carrington in the late '60s.

In 1964, Bruce and three friends shattered the back window of a car with a BB gun, and in good "small town" fashion, Red had heard the news before Bruce even got home. The following morning, 8-year-old Bruce began his grocery career by filling gunny sacks with 50 lbs. of potatoes for 10 cents a sack until the bill was paid, and he's never looked back.

He didn't really mind the work, so he started spending more time at the store- sweeping the back room, filling pop machines and loading the box bin with appropriately sized boxes. His favorite job was counting and unloading watermelons off the truck and into the Hagens' garage.

In high school, Bruce began delivering groceries and learning the ropes in the meat department. He must have gotten good at cutting meat, because he was offered a job as a meat cutter at Leever's store in Langdon after graduating from New Rockford High School in 1975. He was a well-rounded employee, also making sure to learn where all the items in the store were kept. That knowledge was put to good use when a young lady, Colleen (Ekberg), walked in one day looking for cherry pie filling. A follow-up phone call and a first date eventually led to marriage for the couple in 1979.

In 1978 Bruce was offered the meat manager position at the Leever's store in Jamestown, where the couple lived for three years. Then in 1981 Red purchased Leever's shares in both the Carrington and New Rockford stores. Bruce worked alongside his dad in the New Rockford store, and his brother Tom operated the Carrington location. Bruce managed the meat department in New Rockford at that time and learned everything he could from his dad about grocery, from bookkeeping and ordering to scheduling and managing employees.

In April 1983, Red received the "Grocer of the Year" award from the North Dakota Food Retailers Association. Three months later, Red sadly passed away on July 8, 1983. Bruce picked up right where Red left off, taking full responsibility for the New Rockford store. The name changed to Hagen's Super Valu in 1984, and Bruce and Colleen worked hand in hand to operate the store while raising their two children, Riley and Liz.

The store moved into its current location at 15 North 7th Street in 1989, a 7,200 square foot space formerly occupied by the Jack and Jill grocery store. According to the Saturday, June 24 edition of the "Transcript," Bruce planned to be opened at the new location that weekend. Even the 100-year-old safe made the block-long move with the help of a forklift! At that time they had 18 employees and had expanded the fresh produce, meat and frozen food sections to meet customer demand.

The Hagens were well recognized by Super Valu corporate. In 1990 Bruce received the Retailer of the Year award from Super Valu's Fargo division, which included nearly 90 stores in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The store also won the Super Valu Western Roundup competition that same year, earning Bruce and Colleen a 10-day Caribbean Cruise and $500 in prize money. The Hagens went on the trip and split the cash prize among their employees. They celebrated 50 years of family ownership with SuperValu in 1998.

They sold the store to Jeff Miller in 2009. With the sale, both the name and the supplier changed, to Miller's Fresh Foods and Nash Finch respectively.

This photo appeared in the February 4, 1989 edition of the "Transcript," just a few months before Hagen's Super Valu moved from its original location on Eighth Street.

Bruce and Colleen are an integral part of the Miller's group, which is made up of 10 stores. The New Rockford location produces the award-winning smokehouse products available at all the stores, which they enter in the North Dakota Grocers Association Processed Meat Contest each year. Bruce also oversees produce pricing for all the stores. Colleen is active on the special events and marketing side, as she helps coordinate the annual Ribfest, Taste of the Season and other promotions for all the stores. She spends a lot of her time creating marketing materials.

In their nomination of Bruce for the Grocer of the Year, Jeff Miller and Torry Reutter noted, "We currently have four employees that total over 100 years of service to Red's Super Valu, Hagen's Super Valu and Miller's Fresh Foods. That alone in this day and age is a big feat and speaks volumes as to Bruce Hagen and his grocery career to date."

Yes, the grocery life has been good to Bruce and Colleen Hagen. It has also been good to the New Rockford community, as the Hagens have built and maintained a store that we can all be proud to support. The couple celebrated their award with cake, hors d'oeuvres and beverages at the store on Wednesday. Congratulations to the Hagens on this fantastic accomplishment!

 
 

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