October 18, 2003
Rosemary Capocci helps carry out bottles of soda for Loop Foods customer Jim Kaas on October 17, 2003. Kaas has been shopping at the store in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood for almost 50 years. "It’s very sad the store is closing,’ Kaas said. "They’ve been a part of this community for a long time.’ (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)
LAKESIDE TO LOSE LOOP FOODS STORE
By Jane Brissett, News Tribune staff writer
After 61 years in business, the Lakeside neighborhood’s Loop Foods will close for good sometime in the next week.
The decision came after a difficult year that included the loss of the store’s Supervalu designation, said owner Mark Sienkiewicz, who has owned the store since 1998.
And it will be missed, because the store is a neighborhood institution. It’s the last of several grocery stores that once operated in the 44th to 47th avenue east area. Loop is at 4425 E. Superior St.
"It’s going to leave a big hole in the neighborhood,’ said Carol Fleischmann, who has shopped there since the mid-1940s. "I’ve just talked to several who are going to miss it.’
Sienkiewicz said the store was unprofitable for the entire time he owned it, but when he bought it, he expected it would start making money after three years.
However, three years later, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place.
"The day it happened, we dropped 20 percent,’ he said. Business stayed at that level but then dropped another 20 percent when Superior Street construction began July 7. Each week since, its sales have been from 20 percent to 42 percent below the post-Sept. 11 level, he said.
Road construction was just one of many factors that led to Sienkiewicz’s closure decision. High employee costs and taxes also contributed, Sienkiewicz said. The staff has been reduced from 12 to himself, his mother and two part-time employees.
Rosemary Capocci hugs longtime Loop Foods customer Carol Scharnott at the Lakeside store on Oct. 17, 2003. The small grocery store will be closed by the end of the month. "I got a friendly hug every time I came in, and you can’t expect that at the other stores," Scharnott said. (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)
Loop began as a Supervalu in 1942, but four months ago, the designation was removed because the store no longer met the corporation’s sales requirements over a four-week period, Sienkiewicz said. Supervalu spokeswoman Polly Deane said the corporate office doesn’t comment on the status of individual stores. Supervalu stores are independently owned, not franchises or owned by the corporation.
In recent months, Loop has been supplied by convenience store wholesaler Core-Mark. But Loop used to be considered a large operation.
"At one time, it was the biggest store in town,’ said Virgil Dock, who founded the store.
Dock opened Loop at 4507 E. Superior St., where Falk’s Pharmacy now sits, with partner Bill Knutson. According to Dock, who sold it in 1992 to Tom Mosiniak, it was the first self-serve grocery in Duluth. Before that time, grocery store customers went to a counter and clerks picked items off the shelves for them.
Because of ill health, Knutson left the business when Loop moved to its current location in 1955. A grocery store affiliated with the National-Tea chain previously occupied the space.
"We did more business per square foot than any other (Supervalu) store in Minnesota,’ Dock said.
At one time, he had 23 employees, including three butchers. All five of Dock’s children worked there, too, when they were old enough.
"I had a lot of wonderful people that worked for me,’ he said. "They were more of a family than they were employees.’
Doing business was fun, he said, partly because of the people he met.
"During my many years in business, I met many, many lovely people,’ Dock said.
Mosiniak recalled the "very, very loyal’ customers that frequented the store. Mosiniak now co-owns Homecroft Supervalu.
Dock still owns the building, which Loop will vacate by the end of the month. Plans for the space are uncertain.
Sienkiewicz will close the store when his inventory is sold, probably by the end of next week. Prices will be reduced from 25 percent off to 50 percent off Monday. An auction is scheduled Oct. 29.
Fleischmann pointed out that many small grocery stores have given way to larger ones, but that doesn’t alleviate the disappointment of losing the neighborhood grocery.
"It was a very nice and good grocery store,’ she said.
Mark Sienkiewicz, owner of Loop Foods, and Rosemary Capocci move refrigerated items into a different case after unplugging some of the store’s almost-empty refrigerator cases on Oct. 17, 2003. (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)
Marc Sienkiewicz, owner of Loop Foods, stands in front of his store on Superior Street in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood on Sept. 8, 2003. The construction on the street has dramatically slowed the business to his store. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)
The building that housed Loop Foods now is home to Snap Fitness.
Share your memories of Loop Foods by posting a comment.
– Andrew Krueger