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Retiring Grocer Gives His 400 Employees All 3 of His Stores for Free

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Grocer gives his store to employees

Lueken, 70, turns over his three stores to his employees at no cost to them. Photo by David Joles /Courtesty Star Tribune

A Minnesota grocer has decided to thank his 400 employees for their service by giving them all three of his stores for free just in time for Christmas.

Joe Lueken got many offers from national chains to buy out his stores but he chose another route. Instead, he is using an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to transfer full ownership of the three stores to employees at no cost to them. Two of the stores are located in Bemidji, Minn., while the third is in Wahpeton, N.D. The takeover will commence on Jan. 1.

This program will pay off the Leuken family in three to five years. The employees will receive their shares on formula that takes their years of service and salary into account.

Joe believes not in just taking but giving back. He credits his employees with any success he’s had and wants them to have a share of that. His decision came after he learned that neither of his two sons was interested in filing the old man’s shoes. He sat down with the family and together they devised the stock ownership transfer plan.

Lueken, who has Parkinson’s disease, is retiring after 46 years in the business. He and his wife have plans to travel the world over. Last week, he announced his successor. Brent Sicard started as a janitor in 1998 and currently holds a top management position. He will take over in January as president and CEO.

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