24-hour self-service grocery store thrives in small Minnesota town

EVANSVILLE, Minn. — A number of small, Minnesota towns have lost their grocery stores over the years – creating an inconvenience for residents – and a bit of a food desert. But a couple in Douglas County thinks they’ve found a solution.

Five years ago, Evansville lost its grocery store. One that had been in town for 60 years.

“We’d been hearing from people, ‘man it would be nice to get a store back in town. We really miss it,'” said Caileen Ostenson. “Especially with gas prices going up people are wanting to stay local, shop local.”

But Caileen Ostenson and her husband Alex Ostenson knew a traditional grocery store wouldn’t make it in a town of 600. Also wanting a place to get milk or bread late at night, they came up with a do-it-yourself concept. For a yearly membership of $75, you can access the Main Street Market any time, day or night.

“After that first week and having over 50 memberships the first week, it sealed the deal that this is what the community needed,” said Alex Ostenson.

It works just like a 24-hour fitness gym. You can use a fob to get in or you can use an app on your phone to gain access.

There’s a self-serve check-out where customers can scan and pay for their groceries.

“We also have another app on your phone where you scan and pay right from your phone and head out the door,” said Caileen Ostenson.

The Ostensons have cameras set up throughout the store and they can also monitor things on their home computer. But they believe that their customers are honest. And membership continues to grow.

“It’s really handy. I’m glad they have something around here where you can grab something. It’s really handy,” said customer John Thoennes.

“I really hope we can spread this model and we can really start seeing small towns thrive once again,” said Alex Ostenson.

Alex and Caileen Ostenson are in the store about three days a week, otherwise shoppers are on their own. They also offer a 3 month membership for cabin-goers and a 6 month membership for snow birds.

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