PIERRE — A couple who operate nine convenience and grocery stores have been named the recipients of the 2018 South Dakota Retailer of the Year Award.
Jeff and Janine Nielsen of Canistota were honored at the annual Awards Banquet of the South Dakota Retailers Association (SDRA) on Jan. 8 in Pierre.
The Nielsens were chosen for the award by a committee of retailers in recognition of commitment to running an excellent business, and outstanding service to their community.
Originally from Viborg and Centerville, the Nielsens were working in Texas when they decided to come back to South Dakota to open a convenience store in Canistota in 1991. In 1994, they purchased the grocery store in Emery. They continued to grow their business operation by purchasing, remodeling and expanding stores in Alcester, Beresford, Centerville, Chancellor, Freeman, Lennox, and Menno in South Dakota, and in George, Iowa.
One of their businesses is a truck stop, four are convenience stores, one is a grocery store without gas pumps, and three are grocery stores with gas pumps. No two of their stores are operated exactly alike; each store aims to fit the needs of the local community.
They have also helped others get a start in business, by mentoring managers at their Canistota and Iowa stores until they were ready to purchase the businesses.
“A lot of times when we talk about economic development, people tend to think about smokestacks and big box,” SDRA Board President Gary Cammack of Cammack Ranch Supply in Union Center said when presenting the award. “But the Nielsens also represent strong economic development. They provide employment for over 140 people. The jobs they provide, and the services they offer make a huge impact on those small communities.”
They were nominated for the award by business colleagues and others who praised the Nielsens for their vision, work ethic, commitment to the communities they serve, support for school and charitable events, their friendly service, and for being excellent entrepreneurs.
The Nielsens say while their businesses are always evolving, the core principle remains the same: to provide needed goods and services to their customers, have a good relationship with the people they do business with, and always try to be fair with everybody.
The Nielsens find owning and running their stores to be very rewarding.
In accepting the award, Jeff Nielsen thanked his managers, employees, and customers, and also the suppliers and service providers they work with.
“It’s relationships like that with wonderful people and wonderful companies that have allowed us to be successful, and we feel very blessed,” he said.
When asked what the key to their success was, Nielsen recalled the words of an old sergeant when he was in the military. The sergeant had always said the toughest thing about being in the military is getting up in the morning and putting your boots on. Nielsen said the same is true for being successful in a retail business: just get out of bed and get going.